Colombia Still Moves to the Rhythm of James Rodriguez, Ten Years After the World Cup that Consecrated Him

James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez (Credit: Getty Images)

James Rodriguez, once again. Ten years after the World Cup in Brazil in which he was crowned scorer, Colombia still moves to the rhythm of its number 10 and captain, now accompanied by Luis Diaz, the destabilizing Liverpool winger with whom he exudes harmony. Without continuity this year in Sao Paulo, where he has barely played a handful of minutes, the 32-year-old playmaker is more than used to curing his sorrows in the national team, in which he has already played a hundred games and has always demonstrated his validity. of his left hand. With the help of James and Lucho, as everyone knows them, Colombia is excited again.

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Nestor Lorenzo’s team arrives at the Copa America in the United States at a sweet moment, undefeated in twenty games (15 wins and 5 draws) since the Argentine coach took charge two years ago. Nobody denies merits to the outstanding pupil of Jose Pekerman, who straightened the course of a melancholic team that had just been left out of Qatar 2022. Now it is the only one that has not lost in the first six dates of the South American qualifiers for the World Cup in North America 2026, in which they have even had the luxury of knocking down Brazil in Barranquilla (2-1) with an emotional double from Lucho Diaz and beating Paraguay in Asuncion (0-1), two rivals with whom they will meet again the face in the Copa America, in a group that completes Costa Rica. Along the way, they have also achieved prestigious victories in friendlies against Germany (0-2) and Spain (0-1).

Colombia had been divorced from the fans due to its failure in the last qualifying round, remembers sports journalist Nicolas Samper. “Lorenzo once again turned the public towards a team that was set up with part of the old guard, but finding a good replacement in positions with young players with a bright future,” he points out. He knew the veterans from his time as Pekerman’s assistant in the Brazil and Russia events. The greatest virtue of the group is that it competes without fear, it knows how to recover from bad moments and so far it has shown that it has found the line of play. Samper emphasizes that the coach himself, who had started with excessive enthusiasm, decided to lower the temperature by saying that although his team was working like clockwork, the Argentines, the Brazilians, and the Uruguayans started with a little more advantage.

It is a “countercultural” team with respect to Colombian tradition, says Juan Felipe Cadavid, sports journalist for Caracol Radio. “It is an aggressive team without the ball, that presses high, very offensive; “We have been more of a game of preparation, of defending ourselves by grouping ourselves,” he explains about a coffee generation that is at a good level and with a great emotional impulse to seek a title that it has only won once, at home, in the 2001 edition. Since then, he has not reached the final again.

James, all momentum and joy when he plays in yellow, arrives in the United States as the quarterback who carries the team on his shoulders. In contrast to the faded version that he has shown at times in his last clubs, he is Dr. Jekyll in the Colombia team, Samper values. “He never fails, he brings knowledge to the game, Nestor Lorenzo has given him a flourishing role by placing him in the finishing as a false 9, without taking away his freedom as a 10, as a creator and facilitator of plays,” he points out. “Technically, James is a gifted guy, to that we must add that he already has the experience of playing for the national team, it doesn’t weigh on him, and he always strengthened himself with that shirt,” agrees Cadavid, who highlights that this is his moment of greatest maturity.

Lorenzo’s merit goes beyond recovering James for the cause and taking advantage of Lucho Diaz’s inexhaustible tricks. They are complementary talents, accompanied by a backbone that includes veteran Camilo Vargas (Atlas) in goal; a solid central couple composed of John Lucumi (Bologna) and Davinson Sánchez (Galatasaray), as well as a midfield in which the rocky Jefferson Lerma (Crystal Palace) and an all-rounder like John Arias, Libertadores champion with Fluminense, stand out, who he can play in different positions. Forward, Rafael Santos Borre has been his trusted forward until now. In addition to the best-known names, the call draws attention to two precocious talents who are forged in England, John Jader Duran (Aston Villa) and Yaser Asprilla (Watford), both 20 years old.

While this generational change is consolidated, James wants to once again display in North America the electrifying smile that became the postcard of that World Cup in Brazil. He feels surrounded by a team in which he vindicates his figure every time he has the opportunity. “I play here until I’m lame,” he said precisely in the United States, at the end of a match in the 2016 Copa America Centenario, the precursor to this edition. At that time, with a battered shoulder, he had just scored the winning goal against Paraguay (2-1), after a season relegated to the bench at Real Madrid. Colombia finished third in that tournament, the same position it held in 2021, the most recent edition. To climb another rung, you need James on.

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