If fans’ expectations in Colombia were high before their heroes’ opening match in Group A, the excitement surrounding Eduardo Lara’s charges has since reached fever pitch. Following their impressive 4-1 win over France, Los Cafeteros will look to practically guarantee their place in the next round with a further victory over Mali, whose FIFA U-20 World Cup future is already hanging by a thread.
Colombia-Mali, Bogota, Tuesday 2 August, 20.00 (local time)
The host nation’s grand debut could not have turned out any better: in front of a raucous partisan crowd at El Campin, they overcame the loss of the first goal to comprehensively defeat European champions France. Consequently, Eduardo Lara is likely to stick with the same system, once again placing his faith in the talented Michael Ortega and the speedy pair of James Rodriguez and Luis Muriel. A victory would see the Colombians with one foot in the last 16, so home fans will expect another attack-minded performance.
Opponents Mali, who lost 2-0 to Korea Republic in their first group match, already find themselves in something of a must-win situation, because in the event of defeat they will no longer be in charge of their own destiny. “We played well against the Koreans, although our team struggled a little from not being accustomed to the altitude in Bogota. We hope to correct that aspect over the next few days,” said Mali coach Sekou Diallo, who has not revealed whether or not he plans to make changes to his starting XI.
38 – The total number of goals scored by Colombia in the history of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Their 4-1 victory over France equalled their best-ever result in the tournament, a win by the same scoreline against Japan at UAE 2003.
“Mali will be tricky opponents, with physically powerful players. We can’t give them too much space. The match with France was hugely important, but we realise that we haven’t accomplished anything yet. We’re committed to this, and we want to get as far as we can,” Colombia captain Pedro Franco.
“If we want to remain in the tournament, we know that we really need to win our next two matches. It won’t be easy, and we’ll have to play much better than we did in our opening game. If we can do that, anything’s possible,” Mali coach Sekou Diallo.