Colombia’s status as intriguing outsiders for the 2014 World Cup is arguably viewed with a greater deal of scepticism than the similar mantle attributed to Belgium on these Premier League-obsessed shores, but they can prove themselves at least the Rode Duivels’ equals when the sides meet in Brussels.
Jose Pekerman’s men have a defence that may trump their hosts for steadfastness, especially in light of injuries to key members of Marc Wilmots’ backline.
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Belgium are 19/20 jollies for what could prove an extremely informative fixture with next summer’s Brazilian shindig in mind, with the draw 12/5 and a Colombian victory given odds of 11/4.
Having conceded 13 goals in 16 matches Colombia had the best defence in CONMEBOL qualifying.
Few of their defenders may be household names in the United Kingdom but the Colombian rearguard managed to keep a tighter lid on a section of merciless goal-hunters like Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Alexis Sanchez, Jefferson Farfan and Salomon Rondon than any of their rivals.
As such it’s far from guaranteed that Belgium’s feted attackers will be able to give the necessary edge that a defence that shipped twice to the USA in their penultimate friendly may require.
Pekerman’s strikers Falcao and Jackson Martinez notched 68 times in 83 club outings last term.
Although more often than not only one of the duo has been employed in recent fixtures they both boast the kind of scoring figures and continental pedigrees that their Belgian opposite numbers Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku have no answer to.
Shorn of the experience of skipper Vincent Kompany and with Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen a fitness doubt the Belgians will find it all the more difficult to cope with either lethal marksman.
Colombia qualified ahead of three teams inside the top 22 of FIFA’s World Rankings.
While Los Cafeteros cannot rival the unbeaten Belgians in the impressive qualification stakes, they qualified from a group containing three of the current 12 highest-rated nations in the business.
By contrast Croatia, the hosts’ most stellar opponents on rankings, reside at number 18 on the current FIFA ladder and they managed to hold Wilmots’ uber-hyped side to a draw in Belgium.