Five reasons Colombia can overcome Brazil hoodoo
Colombia have only managed to beat Brazil twice in 25 previous meetings, but having won all four of their matches at the 2014 World Cup are buoyant heading into their quarter-final against the hosts on Friday.
Here, AFP Sports looks at five reasons why the Colombians can be optimistic about ending Brazil’s quest for a sixth World Cup in Fortaleza:
1. King James
In a World Cup in which the star names have turned up at the party, it is not Neymar, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo who lead the scoring charts but Colombia’s James Rodriguez (pictured below).
James has netted five times and provided two assists in his first four World Cup games, including a goal of the tournament contender with a sumptuous dipping left-foot volley to set Colombia on their way to a 2-0 win over Uruguay in the last 16.
2. Neymar fitness concerns
Brazil’s own talisman (pictured below) continues to show remarkable courage while shouldering the expectation of the host nation as he slotted home his side’s fifth penalty in their shootout win over Chile in the last 16.
However, the 22-year-old was on the end of some rough treatment from the Chileans leaving him battered, bruised and far from fresh to face the Colombians.
3. Fred and Jo
La Selecao’s reliance on Neymar has been exaggerated through four games thanks to the lack of any real end product from their number nines Fred and Jo.
Brazil's Fred being substituted for Jo during the World Cup match between Brazil and Chile at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte on June 28.
Fred does have one goal to his name against Group A whipping boys Cameroon, but has been replaced by Jo with his side in need of a goal against both Mexico and Chile.
The former Manchester City striker has failed to provide that breakthrough on both occasions and wasn’t even among Brazil’s five penalty takers against Chile.
4. Brazil’s anxiety
Neymar, Julio Cesar and captain Thiago Silva were among those to break down in tears of relief following their narrow escape over Chile.
Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (pictured below) has also shown concerns over his side’s mental state, calling in the team’s sports psychologist for an extra emergency session with the team on Tuesday.
With so much nervous tension and 120 minutes of high intensity football against the Chileans in their legs, Colombia may well be able to call on greater energy reserves in the heat of Fortaleza.
5. Gustavo gap in Brazil midfield
Another setback from Brazil’s encounter with the Chileans was a second yellow card of the tournament and subsequent suspension for the understated midfield general Luis Gustavo (pictured below).
The Wolfsburg midfielder is key to Scolari’s system in covering a huge amount of ground to allow full-backs Marcelo and Dani Alves to fly forward.
Moreover, Gustavo normally occupies the role in front of the defence where James will be looking to turn Brazilian dreams into another World Cup nightmare on home soil.