Rio de Janeiro: The absence of their team's star strikers has allowed Colombia's James Rodriguez and Uruguay's Edinson Cavani to take centre-stage for today's World Cup Last 16 clash in Rio de Janeiro.
Uruguay striker Edinson Cavani. Pic/Getty Images.
Rodriguez has assumed responsibility for leading the Colombian attack after a knee injury robbed Colombia of his Monaco teammate Radamel Falcao. Luis Suarez’s biting ban leaves Cavani carrying the burden of expectation for Uruguay.
Colombia striker James Rodriguez. Pic/Getty Images.
Both players alighted in France’s Ligue 1 amid great fanfare a year ago, but while Cavani’s Paris Saint-Germain pipped Rodriguez’s Monaco to last season’s title, the boot has been on the other foot so far in Brazil. Rodriguez scored in each of Colombia’s three victories over Greece, the Ivory Coast and Japan and laid on three assists as his side swept into the Last 16 for only the second time.
Blessed with a gloriously dextrous left foot, the 22-year-old is an extravagantly gifted playmaker whose emergence as a world-class player has longed seemed a simple matter of time.
Former Colombia coach Bolillo Gomez described him as “the number 10 that Colombia has been waiting for”.
Rodriguez’s performances in his country’s colours have prompted comparisons with Colombia’s last great playmaker, Carlos Valderrama, who captained the team that reached the Last 16 at the 1990 World Cup in Italy.
Rodriguez’s 45 million euros move to Monaco from Porto made him the second most expensive Colombian player in history behind Falcao (60 million euros), but both transfers were eclipsed by Cavani’s switch to Paris from Napoli for 64 million euros.
Cavani has not found the net at the World Cup since opening the scoring with a penalty in his side’s 1-3 loss to Costa Rica, but at the Maracana today he will have the main central striking role that he craves.
Rodriguez, however, will be determined to make sure that he does not keep all the limelight to himself.