Colombia Camp Focus – Ospina ruled out ahead of Costa Rica clash

Colombia prepare for tonight’s opening fixture with Costa Rica with a near full-strength team to call upon. There is a question mark over the goalkeeping position with No.1 David Ospina ruled out after picking up an injury in training, but otherwise Colombia start as clear favourites against a youthful Costa Rica outfit.

The problems which undermined Colombia’s doomed qualification campaign for the last World Cup remained evident in their warm-up matches against Mexico and Senegal. A lack of goals is still an issue although Coach Hernan Dario Gomez will be heartened by a resilient backline which has kept three clean sheets during their last four games. One of the most promising features of the defence is the appetite of the full-backs, in particular Camilo Zuniga, to support the attack. Whether the midfield can provide powerful striker Radamel Falcao with the service he requires remains up for debate.

However, the most pressing issue for Coach Hernan Dario Gomez concerns the goalkeeper position after first-choice David Ospina broke his nose in a training ground collision with Wigan’s Hugo Rodallega. The Nice starlet has been ruled out of the competition, suffering the same fate which befell talented playmaker Gio Moreno. His place is expected to be filled by Once Caldas custodian Neco Martinez. In deputising for Faryd Mondragon and Ospina, and collecting just 10 caps in eight years, Martinez is well acquainted with the back-up role that many keepers face on international duty. As the 28-year-old steps forward to fill the No.1 jersey, Martinez will be buoyed by his strong performances in Once Caldas’ run to the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores where they were defeated by eventual winners Santos despite Martinez saving a penalty from Neymar in the second leg. Should he start it will mean disappointment for long-term reserve and veteran Breiner Castillo of Independiente Medellin.

In contrast to the well-travelled Colombians, Costa Rica’s squad is comprised almost entirely of players based in the domestic league. Attacker Diego Madrigal is currently plying his trade in Paraguay for Cerro Porteno while 18-year-old Francisco Calvo is learning the ropes in college football in the United States. Not only is Ricardo La Volpe’s squad lacking in international experience, but like Mexico all but four are aged under-23. Expectations of success are therefore limited and the tournament is viewed as a learning experience as La Volpe builds towards the World Cup in 2014.

With this in mind, Hernan Dario Gomez will be under considerable pressure if los Cafetores pick up anything less than the three points tonight. And with tournament favourites Argentina still to come, there is much at stake for Colombia in tonight’s clash.

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