The 2-0 victory against Argentina in the opening game of the Copa América has raised hopes among Colombian football fans of winning their second ever Copa América title, but first, the second game of the group stage for Colombia, vs Qatar.
Los Cafeteros are favourites for this game, after their impressive performance vs Argentina on Saturday. The influence of new manager Carlos Queiroz was clearly visible. He created a very well organised Colombian defence and midfield that blunted the strong Argentinian attack with Ángel di María, Sergio Agüero and Lionel Messi pretty much invisible. Wílmar Barrios was one of the best players on the pitch and the holding midfielder based at Zenit Saint Petersburg effectively neutralised Argentina’s path to the strikers.
Colombia and Qatar have never met before and it is Qatar’s first participation in the Copa América. The World Cup 2022 hosts won the Asian Championship earlier this year with some spectacular football and are desperately looking for opponents outside of their continent for a wider preparation for their first ever World Cup presence in 2022. Despite a 2-2 draw, Qatar impressed in their first game against Paraguay, playing a careful passing game and creating the better chances. With the skillful Ali Almoez up front, they shouldn’t be taken lightly.
There will be changes in the Colombian starting line up compared with the game against Argentina. For Luis Muriel, subbed off injured after 14 minutes, the tournament is over. The 28-year-old Fiorentina winger suffered a knee injury and will be out for two months. Roger Martínez will most likely replace him. The surprise inclusion in the squad replaced Muriel with aplomb on Saturday, scoring the important opening goal against los albicelestes.
The call for Duván Zapata to start instead of Radamel Falcao is also getting louder. Zapata only got 10 minutes in the last game, but with his goal and his qualities in holding up the ball he was very important. Falcao, on the other hand, had a pale game. The Colombian all-time top goalscorer and talisman couldn’t get involved, making Zapata’s case stronger, but it is unlikely Falcao will be benched for this game.
Right back Stefan Medina, surprise starter against Argentina, seems set to lose his place to Santiago Arias. Six years ago Medina became a public scapegoat with a terrible game against Chile (3-3), that could have cost them qualification for the World Cup that day. Colombia’s public opinion has been ruthlessly against him, but he showed great mental strength against Argentina, with a strong match. However, Arias, active at Atlético Madrid, has been Colombia’s number one right back for the past four years and seems to be playing vs Qatar.
Queiroz has not given many clues about the starting line up he is planning to play, but in training on Tuesday, Queiroz was trying out several players who didn’t start against Argentina. Gustavo Cuéllar played in the holding midfielder role instead of Barrios, who picked up a minor knock against Argentina and might miss tomorrow. Edwin Cardona could be favoured over Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, who is struggling with his new role in central midfield.
Colombia vs Qatar kicks off at 4.30pm in Estádio do Morumbi in Sao Paulo this Wednesday and a Colombia victory will secure them a place in the quarterfinals. Los Cafeteros finish the group stage vs Paraguay on June 23.