FIFA World Cup Preview: Colombia v Greece
By Football News
Colombia's back-up strikers face a test of their credentials when they meet a stubborn Greece side in their FIFA World Cup Group C opener.
The absence of talismanic frontman Radamel Falcao - ruled out of the tournament by injury - has cast a shadow over Colombia coach Jose Pekerman's preparations, though the Argentine possesses several other strong options in his squad.
Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca, Porto's Jackson Martinez and Borussia Dortmund-bound Adrian Ramos all enter the clash at Estadio Mineirao off the back of impressive campaigns at club level and looking to shine in Falcao's place.
Bacca and Martinez each racked up over 20 goals domestically, but between them have managed just 11 on the international stage.
The experienced Teofilo Gutierrez is the highest scorer in the squad with 12 goals to his name. He and pacy Cagliari man Victor Ibarbo complete Pekerman's strikeforce.
The absence of Falcao will undoubtedly hinder the chances of a side considered by many to be potential dark horses, but his Monaco colleague James Rodriguez believes that they still have plenty of firepower to make up for that loss.
He said: "The responsibility is weighing on us even more without Falcao, but we're not alone.
"The attack isn't going to change. It's the same. Apart from Falcao, we have Teo, Jackson and Bacca.
"The team is okay and happy. We have to stay focused on the World Cup. We have a lot of dreams, but we must just hope we have a good game against Greece and win."
Looking to stop James and his team-mates will be a staunch Greece defence, which conceded just six goals in 12 games en route to Brazil.
Dortmund's Sokratis Papastathopoulos played in all but one of their qualifying fixtures, and he will be key to their chances of getting out of a competitive Group C that also features the Ivory Coast and Japan.
A decade on from their stunning success at UEFA Euro 2004, Sokratis believes that reaching the next phase would constitute triumph for Greece this time around and is hoping to gain momentum from the Colombia clash.
"Our aim is to get out the group," he declared.
"That would be a very big achievement for us. The first match is the one that gives you strength or disappointment."
Greece's own star striker, Kostas Mitroglou, could be a doubt having played just an hour of football across their pre-tournament friendlies, while Sokratis is recovering from a hamstring injury.
Gutierrez is a mainstay in Colombia's attack so the likes of Bacca and Martinez will fight it out to partner the River Plate man, but Pekerman will be unable to call upon the services of suspended midfielder Fredy Guarin.