Colombia Camp Focus – Gomez likely to keep it tight in must-win game for Bolivia

Group A leaders Colombia go into tonight’s meeting with Bolivia well placed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Copa America. While their reward for winning the group may be a tricky tie in the next round, coach Hernan Dario Gomez is expected to name the same line-up which served him well against Argentina.

Normally there would be plenty of incentive for Colombia to finish top with the winners of group A to face the best third-placed team in the quarter-finals, However that spot is currently occupied by Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, none of whom offer Colombia with the straightforward passage to the semi-finals which might have been expected from topping the group. As coach Hernan Dario Gomez pointed out, “it’s better to win the group than finish second – but it really doesn’t matter in terms of the kind of opponent we might meet.”

Meanwhile, there is a feeling that Bolivia have missed the boat. Having done the hard work by drawing with Argentina, they were expected to overcome an inexperienced Costa Rica outfit and put themselves within touching distance of a place in the quarter-finals. A disastrous second-half saw Bolivia implode with centre-back Ronald Rivero and central midfielder Walter Flores both sent off as they conceded two unanswered goals. Despite boasting some impressive victories in the heady air of La Paz, it is 19 games since Bolivia have won away from home. Coach Gustavo Quinteros will need to reshuffle his line-up both to replace Rivero and Flores and equally to conjure a solution to trouble the Colombians.

That however may prove difficult given that los Cafeteros remain the only team yet to concede a goal in this year’s tournament. The strength of their defence was clear to see as they restricted the multi-talented Argentina attack to a bare handful of half-chances. This evening Gomez is expected to deploy the same personnel and formation which nullified the Argentinians. He will have to decide whether to retain the services of deep-lying midfielder Carlos Sanchez – who was brought in to limit the impact of Lionel Messi – or opt for Gustavo Bolivar who featured against Costa Rica. Either way, the Colombians should line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation which will serve them well in avoiding defeat. Whether it provides them with sufficient attacking impetus to ensure the victory is up for debate, but Gomez will be heartened by the number and quality of chances created against the hosts. Interestingly their only goal in the tournament so far has come when Gomez switched to a more expansive 4-2-3-1 against Costa Rica by bringing Hugo Rodallega to supplement Adrian Ramos and Dayro Moreno in supporting centre-forward Radamel Falcao.

Wide forward Dayro Moreno alluded to these difficulties in an interview with El Espectador: “It is going to be a different game, very complicated and hard. Bolivia demonstrated they are not an easy team to beat. They were very tough in the first half against Argentina. Because of this, we have to concentrate and try to correct the errors we have.” With the onus on Bolivia to take the game to Colombia to secure the necessary three points, there are likely to be opportunities for Moreno and colleagues to get on the scoresheet and send the Colombians confidently through to the quarter-finals.

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