The tactical importance of James Rodriguez for Colombia
James Rodriguez returned to the starting lineup for Colombia against Poland as they came into the match after having lost to Japan in their opening group game fixture. While his obvious quality is known to everyone, James' inclusion in the side had a positive effect on a number of his teammates, noticeably Juan Quintero, as the tactical positives from his inclusion helped Colombia to a comprehensive 3-0 win over Poland. I shall look to discuss on how and why James Rodriguez holds the key for Colombia in this piece.
Jose Pekerman has always favoured the 4-2-3-1 in his tenure as the Colombian coach and it was no surprise to see him stick to it with the arrival of his star talisman into the lineup. The surprising feature was that of James' position on the pitch, with the attacking midfielder taking up the left side of the three AMs playing in behind lone striker Radamel Falcao. Quintero maintained his position as the #10 in the side, which was a surprise considering that James thrives in the #10 position and was the star man for Colombia in the previous World Cup campaign from that position.
Juan Cuadrado has a very important role in this setup as he is the main source of crosses into the box from the right hand side, for Falcao to attack. He acts as the main outlet in the side, with the Colombians looking to buildup through the centre and isolate Cuadrado on the right, before putting him through down the flank for him to run onto.
Colombia push their fullbacks high up the pitch to provide width as they are a side that thrive off crosses. They play high tempo football once they enter the opposition half and are very direct in terms of their progression into the final third. Though it stated on paper that Rodriguez would play on the left, he rarely stuck to the flanks on the side and instead patrolled the half spaces and the Zone 14. Care was taken so as to not interfere with Quintero's positioning there as the two players adjusted their movements perfectly to balance each other.
Each player occupied their respective half spaces most of the time, James on the left and Quintero on the right, with one of the two making runs into the centre when the other had the ball. Quintero in particular kept dropping deep for James to run into the space he had vacated, assuming a deeper role than his illustrious counterpart.
As stated above, there was a lot of movement and roaming from both James and Quintero. Both of them seemed to have the same role in terms of possession. Both looked to play the final ball into the box, or spread the play out wide. But this was moderated to some extent, with James assuming the role of creator-in-chief while Quintero assumed a deeper creating role. Either player, depending on the ball near side, would drop deeper to receive and advance the ball. James' positioning meant that Mojica, the Colombian left back, could occupy a high position on the left flank, compensating for the width that Rodriguez did not provide on the side.....
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