Part of the fun of handicapping the 2018 FIFA World Cup is trying to identify the teams that could play the role of the dark horse to perfection. 4 years ago, in Brazil, it was Colombia who was that team, cruising through the group stage and making it to the quarter-finals before losing to the hosts, Brazil. The expectations are a little higher for this team in Russia, and anything other than a similar performance to that which they delivered in Brazil would likely be considered a disappointment. They are certainly in a group that they should get out of.

Colombia’s World Cup History

This will be just the 6th appearance for Colombia at the World Cup, with their most dominant run coming in the 90’s, when players such as Asprilla and Valderrama were still gracing the pitch. 2014 saw the Colombians make a glorious return to the world stage with a team that played some fantastic football, led by young James Rodriguez, who ended up winning the Golden Boot by scoring in all 5 of the games that Colombia played in at that tournament.

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How Colombia Made it to the 2018 World Cup

Colombia needed to wait until the final round of games in CONMEBOL qualifying before booking their ticket to Russia. They tended to struggle against the better teams in South America, but made short work of the minnows, picking up enough points along the way to land in one of the 5 automatic qualifying spots in South America. While getting in is the goal, struggling against the better teams does not bode well for them here.

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Who Will Colombia Face in Group H

Colombia is the slight favorites in Group H, but they are likely to be pushed all the way by a Poland team that has looked very strong in their World Cup preparations. The Colombians will open the tournament against Japan and will also face Senegal in the 4-team round robin that is that group stage. You would certainly pick Colombia to be able to land top 2 in that bunch.

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Colombia Strength’s and Players to Watch

While not particularly loaded with talent, Colombia have great players in the key positions, which makes them a legitimate threat. They are solid on the middle of the defense, but it’s up front where they perhaps have the greatest embarrassment of riches. James Rodriguez will be leading the way, but he will be joined by a healthy, and on-form, Radamel Falcao. That is a formidable partnership that could yield some goals.

If there is a concern with this team, it is that they often fail to deliver their best against the best teams in the world. It is in these games that their lack of serious talent in the middle of the park is shown up. Their game against Poland in Group H is going to give us a better idea of what this Colombia team is all about, and whether they have what it takes to deliver a run like they did 4 years ago in Brazil.

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