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Posted on June 14, 2015 at 5:15 AM

Colombia v Venezuela


Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman said the 2014 World Cup would mark Los Cafeteros’ arrival at football’s top table and the coffee-mad nation didn’t disappoint. The boss has been quick to dampen expectations 12 months later but there’s no doubt this current crop should be considered serious challengers to go the distance.


Sure, Colombia are rebuilding their defence following the retirement of veteran centre-half Mario Yepes and a new crop of youngsters will be given experience in Chile but there’s still more than enough star quality to see the side cement their place amongst the global elite.


Radamel Falcao’s been handed the captaincy and is likely to be partnered by Sevilla’s superb hot-shot Carlos Bacca in an outstanding front two, fed by the mercurial Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez. Venezuela will have James marked tightly but should the World Cup golden boot winner wriggle free and make the best use of space he finds, Colombia will expect to improve on a surprisingly poor record against Sunday night’s opponents.


Los Cafeteros have tasted victory in just one of their last five matches against their neighbours but that head-to-head record is unlikely to have any major bearing on this encounter. Colombia have won their last 12 matches excluding against Brazil (who have beaten them twice in the past year) with seven of those victories by a margin of two-goals or more.


The seven successive wins secured since the World Cup have mainly come against lesser lights in the international game but a quick glance at previous competition openers suggest Colombia are fast starters – the nation have come out on top in five of their last six Copa America or World Cup curtain-raisers, without conceding a goal in any of those victories.


So what should we make of Venezuela? The country with more love for baseball and beauty contests than the round ball game have made great strides in the past 10 years on the international stage but now under the tutorship of the most successful domestic boss in their history Noel Sanvicente, La Vinotinto have struggled to continue their upward curve.A fourth-placed finish at the 2011 Copa has proven a false dawn and preparation for the 2015 edition has been less than convincing. Venezuela have seen five friendly fixtures cancelled over the past year and didn’t even have a pre-tournament game planned to hone their strategies. To make matters worse, the squad have struggled to adapt to Sanvicente’s methods with the attack misfiring and defence far from solid.


The three wins secured under ‘Chita’ came twice against Honduras when only domestic players were contesting and the other a 1-0 victory against an understrength Peru team in their first match under new boss Ricardo Gareca. Still, Colombia would be foolish to ignore the claims of Salomon Rondon and Josef Martínez and it should be noted that La Vinotinto have only failed to score once in nine outings since Sanvicente took charge with eight of those outings featuring three goals or more.Im happy to play a small Suarez on this one

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