WORLD CUP QUARTER-FINAL:
Brazil v Colombia
Colombia defender Pablo Armero has laughed off suggestions that Brazil are vulnerable going into today’s World Cup quarter-final clash in Fortaleza.
Despite topping Group A and reaching the last eight, the host nation have struggled to live up to their billing as tournament favourites, failing to score against Mexico in their second game and only overcoming Chile in the round of 16 on penalties.
Nonetheless, former West Ham defender Armero does not believe Luis Felipe Scolari’s side are struggling, emphasising the quality on display in the tournament and the level of determination in each team.
“Brazil are not weak, it’s just that every team here wants to go as far as possible, we’ve seen that since the start of the World Cup,” Armero told reporters.
“Every team wants to win and no-one is hiding. Also, they were up against Chile, who have great players.”
By contrast, Colombia have exceeded all expectations in their first World Cup since 1998, winning all four of their games and scoring 11 goals.
And Armero emphasised that his team would not be content to go home at this stage.
“We are working so we can go as far as possible,” he said.
“From the first game we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, our attitude has been to go step by step.
“We haven’t come here to go for a walk in the park. We’ve come here to give everything and go for glory.”
The game will see a duel between Colombia forward James Rodriguez, who leads the scoring charts in the tournament with five goals, and Brazil’s star man Neymar, who has scored four times.
Armero admitted his team would be paying special attention to the Barcelona forward, and is confident Colombia can knock the hosts out of the World Cup, as long as they play for each other.
“To nullify Neymar the whole team needs to help each other out in trying to mark him,” he said.
“We need to stay united and not lose our focus. We are a compact team and we know that when we play together we get results.”
And their coach, Jose Pekerman, admits the Brazilians have yet to hit top form.
“Sometimes a team with a lot of potential, if they don’t find the result and they need to win, they can’t play so brilliantly,” he said.
“So the competition becomes interesting because a team with less individual stars can disturb the balance of the other team.”
“It’s normal to have people demanding that we play better,”
Brazil struggled to beat Croatia in their opening game, before drawing with Mexico but beat Cameroon to qualify for a last 16 clash with fellow South Americans Chile, which they won on penalties.
They haven’t been at their best, but the standard is high that many teams are very close, argues manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. “There were a lot of even matches. There is no difference between teams that have tradition and world titles and the rest of the teams. Matches are being decided on penalties, in the final minutes, on mistakes.”
Star striker Neymar predicted another “war” following their seat of the pants win over Chile.
“It’s going to be another war. We will need to be on top of our game.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved