When Colombia and Mexico met in the semi-finals of the Toulon Tournament on 21 June, few would have foreseen a repeat of the fixture just a matter of weeks down the line. Even fewer would have predicted that the pair would be squaring off for a place in the FIFA U-20 World Cup semi-finals. The last time the sides met, Eduardo Lara’s Cafeteros emerged victorious with a 2-1 win. Can they repeat the feat in front of their home crowd, or will El Tri finally take revenge?
Colombia go into the quarter-finals on a high, thanks to a memorable, last-gasp victory over Costa Rica in the last 16. James Rodriguez’s penalty deep into second-half stoppage time made it four wins out of four, breathing new life into the Cafeteros and setting up a clash with another CONCACAF side. Eduardo Lara will be without Jeison Murillo, who is suspended after picking up two yellow cards. Pedro Franco, Santiago Arias, James Rodriguez, Juan Cabezas and Didier Moreno will all need to be on their best behaviour, as another booking against Mexico would rule them out of off a possible semi-final appearance.
Mexico have spent more time on the field than their South American opponents, having defeated Cameroon in a gruelling penalty shoot-out in the last 16. El Tri have only found the net four times at the tournament so far, leading coach Juan Carlos Chavez to highlight his side’s lack of potency in front of goal. Nonetheless, he is confident that his men can spring a major upset in Bogota. They will have to do so without Kristian Alvarez, however, who misses the tie through suspension and will need to be replaced in defence. Diago De Buen, Cesar Ibanez and Alan Pulido, meanwhile, are all carrying yellow cards and will need to take extra care against Colombia.
8 – The number of years that have passed since three South American sides last reached the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Interestingly, at UAE 2003, the trio consisted of Brazil, Argentina and Colombia – the same three sides that have reached the last eight at Colombia 2011.
“It’s going to be a very special match, and a tight one at that. Hopefully we’ll be at our best and show good character. It’ll be eleven against eleven with 50,000 fans in the stadium cheering the sides on, but ultimately they are not the ones on the pitch,” Juan Carlos Chavez, Mexico coach.
“I know the Mexicans well, and several of my friends are in the squad. They run and run, which makes things difficult. I mentioned this to coach Lara not long after we entered the changing room. We can beat them, and we have to beat them to move closer towards the title,” Colombia winger Michael Ortega, who plays for Mexican club side Atlas.