Copa América 2019 Tactical Analysis Preview: Colombia
Artwork by @Chapluana

As we come closer to the Copa America 2019, there are several teams which will provide a tough race to the top. One of these is Colombia. After winning the tournament in 2001, when they won six of their games without conceding any goals, this team will look to get the prestigious trophy once again. Colombia have underperformed at the recent World Cup and the thirst in their country for this trophy that could see them on the way back to their very best is very high. In this tactical preview, we shall take a look at Carlos Queiroz’s Colombia’s team and do a tactical analysis of what we can expect from them.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Ospina, Vargas, Montero

Defenders: Zapata, Medina, Arias, Tesillo, Mina, Borja, Lucumi, Sanchez

Midfielders:  Barrios, Cardone, Rodríguez, Cuadrado, Uribe, Lerma, Cuellar

Forwards: Zapata, Diaz, Muriel, Falcao, Martinez

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

Key players

James Rodríguez

Definitely one of the talismanic figures in this Colombian side, Rodríguez is the focus of many of Colombia’s attacks. He is a major threat with his late runs and long shots. When playing as an attacking midfielder, he is seen making late runs or getting into the box often.  As the image below shows, we have an example of his knack to get into crucial spaces. Rodríguez accurately judges the space between the lines of defense and midfield.

Along with this, he makes a run into space where his teammate can thread the ball. After receiving the ball, he dribbles forward and pulls the ball back into the path of the striker who scores. This shows his great movement off-the-ball and awareness. Many players would have crossed the ball into the box, however, Rodríguez’s accurate pull-back means the striker gets an open shot on goal.

Copa América 2019 Tactical Analysis Preview: Colombia
James Rodriguez is a huge threat throughout the attack. He finds space between the opposition’s lines and then dribbles forward. His pull-back then allows the striker to score.

Rodríguez is also very capable as a playmaker. He likes to do a lot of quick passing combinations that becomes very useful in 2v1 situations. Another one of his traits is finding space on the edge of the box. The playmaker from Colombia has a powerful left foot which allows him to unleash shots from the edge of the box making him a threat in all aspects of the attack.

Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao is also one of the most important players of this Colombian squad. Also the captain of the team, Falcao is a very experienced striker who is bound to be Queiroz’s primary choice in that position.

Falcao is a major goal-scoring threat because of his striker instincts and poaching ability. The Colombian captain is excellent in his off-the-ball movement. He often looks to drop off into midfield. Falcao can be used to hold up the ball with players like Rodríguez and Cuadrado making runs down the wing. If passed to Cuadrado, he can cross the ball into the box where Falcao is such a threat. Rodriguez will either take the shot on his own or provide a cross. Regardless of the situation, Falcao will be ready to pounce.

Here, we have an example of Falcao’s off-the-ball movement and heading skill.
In the first example, we can see that the ball has just been crossed. He looks to time his run perfectly and has positioned himself in the opposition’s blind spot to move in just as the ball lands in the box.

Copa América 2019 Tactical Analysis Preview: Colombia
Falcao stays on the defender’s blind side

This becomes an important point because of his excellent anticipation. He has judged that if he looks to beat the defender to the jump, the chances are that the ball will be cleared out. Which is why getting in front of the defender is the best option. Knowing this, he positioned himself in the defender’s blind spot first.

Colombia’s attacking style and the weakness caused by it

Colombia play attacking football based in possession. They make use of overlapping full-backs and play a high-line when defending. They often use a 4-3-3 which makes maximum use of the wings during build-up based attacks. It also involves maximum use of the central area in counter-attacks.

This 4-3-3 usually shifts to a 4-3-1-2 with Rodríguez playing as a right-winger and dropping into the central attacking position. Falcao and Muriela form a very effective striker duo. Another advantage of Rodríguez playing at a number 10 is to allow Cuadrado and Uribe to deliver dangerous crosses from the wings.

 

Copa América 2019 Tactical Analysis Preview: Colombia
Colombia transition from a 4-3-3 to a 4-3-1-2

Colombia are very strong down out wide with only 22% of their touches through the centre of the pitch. One of the reasons they stick to the wings is the number of triangles they can create. Different passing combinations between the right-winger, attacking midfielder and full-back can create overloads in the wide areas.

As we see in the example above, Colombia have created an overload down the right. This is of course, very useful as there will always be a passing option. However, we can see there is a lot of space created in the central midfield area. This, however, is a problem as they will be very easy to take advantage of on the counter-attack.

The solution might be to play a more compact formation, however, this might make them vulnerable to line-breaking passes causing a reduction in attacking movement. This can’t be executed without sacrificing defensive integrity.

Colombia’s defensive tactics

Colombia often play with very high full-backs. This means that during transitions from attack to defense, Colombia are effectively in a 2-1-4-3 formation, however, this exposes a serious defensive flaw in the wide areas as the opposition can take advantage of the full-backs’ high positioning. The image below is a prime example of this. As the team retreats, the central defenders and full-backs are aware of the space left in between. Hence, they look to push the attack out wide.

In terms of distribution, Davinson Sanchez is a very capable player. The Spurs player frequently moves up with the ball a bit and look to spread the play. Colombia frequently start attacks from the base of the midfield itself. When Sanchez runs forward in possession, the opposition players will look to dispossess him. The opposition has to choose between trying to dispossess him or apply a light press which might leave gaps in behind the defence.

Copa América 2019 Tactical Analysis Preview: Colombia
Due to the players committed forward, Colombia will look to push the atackers out wide.

When Rodriguez plays in a balanced midfield role, he can assist in the build-up. He frequently dropped back to receive the ball and then make his way up the pitch or link play with the midfield.

Another one of Colombia’s defensive assets is Yerry Mina. He scored multiple headers in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. From set-pieces the Everton player is very good and with him and Falcao, Colombia are a major set-piece threat. Rodriguez’s deliveries are very accurate which is another reason why the opposition can’t afford to give away free-kicks to Colombia.

Conclusion

Using analysis, we can conclude that Colombia are a very well-rounded attacking team. As we saw in this Copa América tactical preview, they will look to use the wing to their advantage and make the most of crosses. This just might be the year when they start progressing as a team and who knows, they might recreate the absolutely wonderful campaign of 2001 in the near future. They are capable of reaching the semi-finals at least.

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Anurag Agate

Tactical analyst, Culé, tiki taka ftw
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