Group C might not have any proverbial big-names, but might well be the most interesting and unpredictable group of the tournament, with all four teams having a realistic chance of reaching the next round. The group opener Colombia vs Greece might prove to be a classic game of attack vs defence. Even without the injured Falcao, the Colombians have a strike force that is the envy of many, whilst Greece have one of the meanest defences in the world. Colombia Manager Jose Pekerman will be eager to ensure that his side continue their 7-game unbeaten run when they come up against the Greeks at the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte on Saturday.
Colombia’s first game will be held at a stadium that is located in Brazil’s third largest city. The stadium which was refurbished for the World Cup, has a seating capacity of almost 60,000 and is not just one of the largest stadiums in Brazil, but one of the most stunning as well. Situated at an altitude of 800m, the location might just suit Colombia, who are used to playing game on high ground and allow them to express themselves freely.
June 15 – 9.30 pm – Indian Standard Time (IST)
June 12 – 12.00 pm - Local Time
Possible Starting Line ups
Apart from the suspended Fredy Guarin, the rest of the side are likely to be the same that qualified for the World Cup. Up front, the embarrassment of riches and a bust up between striker Jackson Martinez and the coach might mean that Teofilo Gutierrez is likely to get the nod against Greece.
Colombia (4-4-2): Ospina; Zúñiga, Yepes, Armero, Zapata; Sánchez, Aguilar, Cuadrado, Rodriguez; Bacca, Gutierrez.
Kostas Mitroglu was their main man up front in the qualifiers. But, after moving to Fulham, injuring himself and getting relegated, he has come a long way from scoring in the Champions League. Greece will line up in a 4-3-3 formation, which can be easily reverted back to a more defensive 4-5-1 should they take a surprise lead.
Greece (4-3-3): Karnezis; Torosidis, Manolas, Sokratis, Holebas; Tziolis, Samaris, Karagounis; Samaras, Mitroglou, Salpingidis.
How they will Line Up
Key Facts and Stats
- Greece have lost five of their six World Cup games, their only win coming against Nigeria in 2010, which was also the only game in which they have scored.
- With a loss percentage of 83.3%, Greece have the second worst ratio in the history of the tournament among teams having played at least six games behind El Salvador (100%).
- Since 1966, Colombia have averaged the highest possession (58%), the most ball touches per game (794) and the best pass success rate (85% - min. 10 games) at the World Cup.
- Portuguese coach Fernando Santos has only lost three of his 26 competitive games as Greece supremo (W17 D6).
- Colombia had more shots on target than any other team in South American World Cup qualification (99).
- Greece kept more clean sheets than any other European team in World Cup qualifying (eight).
- Colombia's 2-0 friendly victory over Greece ahead of the 1994 World Cup is the only previous meeting between the two nations.
Kostas Mitroglou v Mario Yepes
Mario Yepes might be moving on, but aged 38, he is still the team’s captain and arguably the best defender as well. Against Greece, he will have his task cut out for him, as he tries to mark the evasive Mitroglou. After bright start to the season, Mitroglou slowly faded away and his move to Fulham surprised one and all. He failed to make an impact at the club, was injured most of the time and was thus relegated. You can be sure that he will be looking to finish the season just the way he started it, with a bang.
Carlos Bacca v Sokratis Papastathopoulos
If Greece are to have any chance of claiming a win against Colombia, they will have to defend like they did in the qualifying zone. And one man who will be key to their chances is centre-back Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Back from injury, Sokratis is set to start against Colombia and will have his hands full trying to minimise the attacking output of Carlos Bacca. The Sevilla striker was in fine form last season and helped Sevilla win the Europa League. If Bacca comes out on top in this battle, the game is as good as done.
After a Friday that saw some free-flowing attacking football from both Holland and Chile, Saturday is likely to be a lot less entertaining. If you are looking for a lot of goals, then this isn’t the match for you, as this looks set to be a game of defence vs attack. Although Greece have a solid defence, Colombia’s attacking verve is likely to see them win. It will not be entertaining, but it will be highly effective and efficient football from both sides.
Predicted Scoreline: Colombia 1-0 Greece
Referee: Mark Geiger (USA)
Assistant referee 1: Mark Sean Hurd (USA)
Assistant referee 2: Joe Fletcher (CAN)
Fourth official: Alireza Faghani (IRN)Published 14 Jun 2014, 11:48 IST