Colombia’s affordable World Cup Fantasy assets could prove effective investments in a favourable Group H.
Los Cafeteros are still considered something of a work in progress but opponents such as Senegal and Japan underpin their Fantasy appeal.
We’ve got everything you need to know about Group H’s South American representatives.
ROAD TO QUALIFICATION
At back-to-back World Cups for the first time in two decades, Colombia are unlikely to put on a repeat performance of their journey to the quarter-finals four years ago. And even if they do, it will be more of a gutsy slog than the exciting free-flowing football they treated us to in Brazil. Capable of attacking brilliance they are also vulnerable in defence, conceding 19 en route to Russia.
Los Cafeteros qualified by finishing fourth in South America’s round-robin league, just about dragging themselves over the line with a final day draw in Peru. Despite having some talented players in their squad, it was guts and grit that made the difference in the end as coach Jose Pekerman, the nation’s longest-serving manager, has had several issues to deal with of late.
The chief of those is then fact that his key players haven’t nailed down starting positions at their clubs, most notably James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao. If even one of them has a poor game, the rest of the squad is still at a level where it affects the overall performance. Boiled down, Colombia have become far too reliant on Rodriguez to win games on his own. It’s something he is capable of occasionally but such dependence on him has proven unhealthy.
At the other end of the pitch, David Ospina has been in awful form since the end of qualifying. With his confidence already damaged by those performances, and a lack of real game-time at Arsenal, he committed another embarrassing error in a recent friendly against France.
However, there have been some encouraging signs. The aforementioned trip to France may have started poorly but Los Cafeteros were able to come back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. It was also a match where coach Pekerman saw the benefits of using two forwards instead of his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, which had been losing popularity back home. That has been viewed as positive progress.
More importantly, Colombia have been handed a favourable draw with Poland looking like the only side to pose a real danger. Progression from Group H seems likely but a second round match likely against either Belgium or England doesn’t hold much hope.
Colombia are well known for struggling to perform against established international powers. It was said four years ago that “the worst Brazil side in history was still too good for Colombia’s best ever.” Indeed that trend continued in qualifying, with four of their five defeats coming against either Brazil, Argentina or Uruguay.
Most starts: David Ospina (18), Carlos Sanchez (15), Santiago Arias, Juan Cuadrado, James Rodriguez (all 13).
Most goals: James Rodriguez (6), Carlos Bacca, Edwin Cardona (both 3), Radamel Falcao (2).
Most assists: James Rodriguez (4), Bacca, Cuadrado (both 3).
THE KEY TARGETS
Even though he has struggled to live up to his potential in Europe’s big leagues since the last World Cup, James Rodriguez (£9.0m) is still the go-to Fantasy asset for Colombia. In fact, the conditions have been set to help him try to improve on his 2014 showing now that he has been relieved of defensive duties and handed a more free-roaming role in the side. None of his team-mates scored more (six) or registered as many assists (four) during qualifying as the 26-year-old, who was involved in 48 percent of Los Cafeteros’ goals. Unlike many attacking midfielders, Rodriguez has managed to avoid being classified as a forward by McDonald’s FIFA World Cup Fantasy, giving him the edge over those who have been shifted to the forwards department.
Having rediscovered his form at Monaco after a disastrous two-year spell in England, Radamel Falcao (£8.5m) will be eager to impress on his World Cup debut. The 32-year-old, Colombia’s all-time leading scorer, missed out on Brazil’s finals through injury but is once again a regular in the side. Falcao started just five qualifying matches and was still able to contribute two goals and an assist. Since then he has featured from the beginning in three of the last five friendlies, adding another strike. Perhaps Falcao’s greatest appeal is his club form, though. The former Manchester United and Chelsea forward is very much back to his best, having fired in 18 goals and providing four assists in 25 Ligue 1 appearances this season, with three Champions League goals too.
THE LONG SHOTS
One of Colombia’s best performers in Brazil was Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado (£8.0m), who could prove important once again. The 29-year-old started 13 qualifying matches and contributed a goal and three assists. However, he has played just 45 minutes for his country since passage to Russia was booked after he suffered a hernia in December.
Carlos Bacca (£8.0m) is another attacking player capable of Fantasy returns when trusted with a place in the starting line-up. In 10 qualifying starts up front the AC Milan man scored three goals and was the provider for three more. However, since Falcao’s return to form, Bacca has only started two friendly matches.
Fantasy Football Scout is supporting Fantasy iTeam, a free World Cup game available on a number of mobile devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPodTouch and Android. We have an official Fantasy Football Scout League open to UK users only, with a £1000 of Amazon vouchers to give out, split between the top three performers. There’s also the small matter of £10k worth of prizes available in the main competitions: Overall World Championship and Manager of the Gameround.
Click here for details and here to sign up.
Our League name is Fantasy Football Scout and the pin is 1887.
Please note, users must be over 18 and based in the UK to join our league.
World Cup Data
We’re delighted to offer World Cup data as an early addition to our regular season offering to help those playing Fantasy games over the summer.
We’ve secured Opta data, not only for the tournament itself, which begins on June 14 but also from the Qualifying Rounds for Europe and South America and for international friendlies involving the participating nations. This includes all the matches played right up to the tournament kick-off.
Just to stress, this World Cup offering comes packaged with the regular Fantasy Football Scout membership.
Check out this new trailer previewing the World Cup content below…