(Reuters) - Colombia’s emphatic 3-0 win over Greece on Saturday, hot on the heels of Chile’s win over Australia, shows South American teams’ World Cup ambitions do not stop at Brazil and Argentina.
On their own continent, the likes of Colombia, Chile and Ecuador will be looking to at least emulate South America’s four berths in the 2010 quarter-finals in South Africa.
Then it was Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay though only Oscar Tabarez’s Uruguayans progressed into the last four but here South America will want more.
Colombia made light of Radamel Falcao’s absence through injury with Teofilo Gutierrez stepping into the advanced striker’s role from his position as roving partner to Falcao and was rewarded poaching the second goal in the six-yard box.
“We are on the rise, we have lots of confidence, we mustn’t lose sight of our objective which is to play good football,” “Teo” Gutierrez said after the Group C clash in Belo Horizonte.
Jose Pekerman’s team, seamlessly continuing where they left off in the qualifiers where they finished second to Argentina in the South American group, opened with a trademark first goal.
Juan Cuadrado stretched the Greek defense on the right and James Rodriguez stepped over his low cross for left back Pablo Armero to fire home.
Full backs Armero and Camilo Zuniga on the right are key to Colombia’s wide, attacking game while Rodriguez, who steered home the third goal in added time, prowls the center prompting or breaking into the penalty area.
Argentine Pekerman’s appointment in charge of Colombia in 2012 gave the side, brimming with talent but constrained by the more cautious Leonel Alvarez’s tactics, the boost they needed to climb up the nine-nation group standings.
A coach who played a huge role in the development of at least two generations of Argentine players as his country’s youth team coach in the 1990s, Pekerman is a good fit.
A calm, studious coach, he helps Colombia’s not always tactically disciplined players maintain their focus when the going gets tough as happened during spells when Greece got back into the game and caused them defensive problems.
“Some things came off, others didn‘t, but we held our concentration and showed we came to have a good World Cup,” Pekerman said.
Though their style of play is different, Colombia have fed off Argentina in their development as a footballing nation and under Pekerman will fancy their chances of going far after a good start.
Back at a World Cup for the first time in 16 years, this Colombia side have a greater team discipline than those gifted side of the 1990s that bombed at three successive tournaments.
Chile put their all-action style on show with Australia but will need to tighten defensively if they are to do enough to leave either Spain or the Dutch behind as Group B casualties.
Writing by Rex Gowar in Cuiaba, Editing by Nigel Hunt