Who: USA vs. Colombia
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.
When: Friday, June 3, 2016
Start: 9:30 p.m. Eastern
TV: Fox Sports 1, Univision, UniMas, Univision Desportes
Livestream: Fox Sports Go
There is no question that James Rodriguez is the sensation of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. The Colombia No10 sank Uruguay with a brace on Saturday to take his country into the last eight for the first time and up his tally for the competition to five goals in four games, in which he has also served up two assists.
The 22-year-old is taking it all in his stride, happily posing for photos with everyone and attending one by one to the dozens of reporters who crammed into the mixed zone at the Maracana to talk to the man of the moment.
Appearances can be deceptive, however, for James is not a player who enjoys being the centre of attention off the pitch. Shy and reserved, the new darling of Colombian football is less than relaxed in front of the microphones, in stark contrast to his demeanour on the pitch, where he once again showed his character to inspire his team to victory over the Uruguayans.
It was a win he sealed himself, scoring both the evening’s goals, the first of them a spectacular effort that can lay claim to being the strike of the tournament so far.
“You always try to score goals like that in training, and I have to say it was nice to get one,” he told FIFA.com in typically understated fashion.
Though James might have been trying to play down his wonder strike, the fact is the watching world could see its brilliance for itself and savour his skill in chesting the ball down and thumping an unstoppable volley on the turn, from outside the box, and in off the crossbar, leaving Celeste keeper Fernando Muslera helpless.
Though Colombia had generated a good deal of expectation heading into the tournament, few expected any of their players to make a huge impact, especially in the absence of their injured talisman Radamel Falcao.
James has taken Brazil 2014 by storm, however, having already scored as many goals as Germany’s Thomas Muller did in winning the adidas Golden Boot at South Africa 2010, and in three games fewer.
His presence in the Colombia midfield has proved inspirational, as the Uruguayans can vouch for or indeed Japan, who were holding Los Cafeteros to a 1-1 draw in the group phase when James jumped off the bench to guide his side to a 4-1 win, which he rounded off by scoring the final goal.
“It’s not easy to achieve what I’ve done, but my view is that when you have a dream and you really pursue it and picture things like this happening, then it can become a reality,” explained the toast of Colombia. “If you want something and you work hard for it, then it can happen.”
Though the midfielder has shown signs of his obvious class before, he is quite simply in the form of his life, making an international breakthrough that could not have come at a better time for his country.
As far as the player is concerned, coach Jose Pekerman is one of the people responsible for making it happen.
“The boss has helped me improve in everything,” said James. “He talks to me a lot and it’s thanks to him that my tactical appreciation of the game has improved along with my mental strength.”
Now that Pekerman’s charges have advanced beyond the last 16 time for the first time – a burden that had been weighing them down ever since Carlos Valderrama and his talented cohorts were knocked out by Cameroon at the same stage at Italy 1990 – James is convinced they can kick on and achieve even more: “This squad wants to go far and we genuinely believe we can.”
The Colombians have certainly given themselves a challenge, with hosts Brazil barring their path to the semis in Fortaleza on 4 July.
Contemplating that task, the tournament’s leading scorer said: “We’ve made history and we want to carry on making it. We’ve got Brazil coming up now and we know they’re a tough team with great players. But we hope to beat them.”
Colombia’s army of fans will be hoping so too and that their new idol can come up with yet another virtuoso performance.
England have flown home in disgrace, so here’s ten reasons Sportsmail’s new favourite World Cup team… is Colombia
With England being dumped out of the World Cup in pathetic fashion not long after the opening ceremony, fans around the country will be on the lookout for a new team to call their own. Here’s ten reasons why Sportsmail’s rather taken with Colombia.
The 22-year-old has been one of the stars of the tournament so far, his irresistably creative playmaking linking up Colombia’s attack and midfield whenever called upon.
The South Americans’ effortless attacking owes much to James Rodriguez’s fiery mix of creativity and ruthlessness in front of goal.
He remains at the time of writing the only player to net in all three games, and completely changed the game against Japan when he came off the bench, setting up striker Jackson Martinez with two sublime passes before netting himself.
If Colombia are going to progress deep into the tournament, there is no doubt he will be at the hub of the success.
Their choreographed celebrations
It took five minutes to work out Colombia would be the best value for entertainment at this World Cup. Pablo Armero struck home from inside the area to kick off their opening 3-0 rout of Greece, and raced over to the dugout with his team-mates.
The whole squad leapt up to do a synchronised dance-and-jump routine, delighting watching fans.
It’s not like they ran out of ideas after that, either. Each game has featured a new display, from the mass shuffle-dance that James Rodriguez kicked off against Ivory Coast to Juan Cuadrado’s penalty against Japan seemingly sparking homage to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/worldcup2014/article-2669176/England-flown-home-disgrace-heres-ten-reasons-Sportsmails-new-favourite-World-Cup-team-Colombia.html#ixzz35fgy3aOr
Colombia vs. Greece
2014 FIFA World Cup
June 14 | 12 pm ET| Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
TV: ABC, Univision in US, CBC in Canada
Group C appears to be full of opportunities for the teams that can grab points. Colombia, perhaps group favorites, kick off their return to the World Cup after a 16-year hiatus with a game against Greece, perpetual underdogs looking to win their second-ever game in the World Cup.
LIFE AFTER FALCAO: The good news for Colombia is that they have had several months to process the likelihood that star striker Radamel Falcao will not be playing in Brazil due to a torn ACL. Now that he’s definitely ruled out, the question is: Who will pick up the scoring slack?
Fortunately, Los Cafeteros have plenty of other intriguing attackers. In the midfield, James Rodriguez and Fredy Guarin should chip in with goals and assists, and the forward corps is loaded with promising talent, from Jackson Martinez and Carlos Bacca to Victor Ibarbo, Adrian Ramos and wildcard Teo Gutierrez.
IS THE GREEK DEFENSE STRONG ENOUGH?: If the attacking options at Colombia’s disposal are impressive, what are the prospects for Greece? The expected game plan, at least as far as recent performances would indicate, will be to defend first and try to score on the counterattack or from set pieces. While the Greeks have rising talent in their defense, including Borussia Dortmund center back Sokratis Papastathopoulos, their goalkeeper, Orestis Karnezis, was strong in qualifying but did not play regularly for his club, Granada, last season. Can Greece minimize Colombia’s impact on the scoresheet?
TIME RUNNING OUT FOR YEPES: Mario Yepes is Colombia’s captain and has announced he will retire after the tournament. At 38, he is the oldest outfield player in Brazil, and while he was a regular in his final club season for Italy’s Atalanta, there have to be questions about the defender’s durability and capacity to keep up with the likes of Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan. Still, for a player waiting his whole career to play in a World Cup, Yepes will get one final chance to shine.
WHICH MITROGLOU WILL SHOW UP?: Greece forward Kostas Mitroglou finished 2013 on an absolute tear, seemingly scoring at will for Greece and his club at the time, Olympiacos. But following a January transfer to Fulham, who were subsequently relegated from the English Premier League, Mitroglou disappeared, making just three appearances in England. He hasn’t scored a goal so far in 2014 – can he get off the mark when his country needs him the most?
THE STAR YOU KNOW
James Rodriguez, midfielder, Colombia — The man named after James Bond (really) will attempt to shake Greece’s stout defense (see what I did there?) as Colombia’s playmaker. The 22-year-old will have major responsibilities, but if he can perform in Brazil, he could be the breakout star of the tournament.