Rio de Janeiro is the setting for the Round of 16 clash between South American also-rans Colombia and Uruguay as both will look to drive home their continental advantage in search for the ultimate glory. Uruguay last won the World Cup at this very Maracana Stadium, and they will look to continue their good run in spite of the absence of the suspended Luis Suarez. Colombia, meanwhile, are being considered as serious contenders after breezing through the group stages, and the inspired performances of their front men will once again hold the key.
Argentine coach Jose Pekerman has a decision to make after one of his eight changes in Colombia’s last group game against Japan, Jackson Martinez, has a strong point after scoring a brace. Teo Gutierrez has been Pekerman’s favoured forward in the absence of Falcao, but Martinez’s good form means changes can be expected. James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado have been the driving forces for Los Cafeteros, and will again be the key men in a 4-2-3-1 setup.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has been beset by Suarez’s misdemeanours, but is largely expected to field a predictable line up in a 4-3-1-2, with Nicolas Lodeiro’s role between the lines a key aspect. Diego Forlan is expected to start in Suarez’s absence, although Tabarez can also try out two men behind Colombia’s midfield with Christian Stuani replacing Forlan and Edinsin Cavani playing the target man role.
The midfield battle
Neither team’s midfield looks particularly impressive, but Uruguay’s Arevalo Rios has so far had a pretty impressive tournament. The same goes for Colombia’s Abel Aguilar and Carlos Sanchez, although both have got out of jail mostly because of the brilliance ahead of them. Rios is a pure destroyer and he will relish the opportunity of stifling James Rodriguez’s threat through the centre. Alvaro Gonzalez has put in solid shifts for Tabarez whenever he has been needed, and will look to neutralize Colombia’s greater attacking strength.
Uruguay defence v Colombia attack
Juan Cuadrado has been quite a threat from wide areas, and has been provider of chances for the forwards. He comes up against an equally aggressive Alvaro Pereira but will fancy his chances against the error-prone Pereira. Uruguay’s defence has had a new, fresh look since captain Diego Lugano got himself injured, and his replacement in the 19-year-old Jose Maria Gimenez has been a revelation alongside the impressive Diego Godin. Both played pivotal roles as Uruguay notched back-to-back wins against England and Italy, and will be again expected to be in their zone against the quality Colombian forwards. James Rodriguez has proved elusive for defenders in the tournament so far, and his influence could well decide which way the match heads.
Both teams look equal on paper after the removal of the Suarez stardust, and it could be a match decided on the finest of margins. Colombia have looked suspect in set-pieces despite the brilliance of captain Mario Yepes at the back, and Uruguay could once again look to win via a set-piece goal.