Adam Chernoff: Colombia v Japan Preview

9 min

I took a big position with Serbia on Sunday and readers of my blog here on Matchbook were rewarded with a victory. It has been a good World Cup so far with Morocco the only blemish on the record. Readers are ahead +2.00* of profit as the final matchday of the opening round approaches.

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There is a fine line between fandom and business for me when it comes to betting on Colombia.

As I mentioned in my previous article, my wife is Colombian and I spent more than three years living in Medellin, one of which was during the 2014 World Cup. Canada, my country of birth and present home country, has never been relevant in the sport, so I consider Colombia my – adopting – team and country.

The squad at this World Cup is an improvement from the one much of the world fell in love with four years ago. Age was replaced with youth and skill. Key links from back to front have had additional years to gel. Pekerman is confident in a lineup. Everything on the outside looking in is very rosy.

Colombia plays a 4-2-3-1 style.

The team goes as James Rodriguez goes. Coach Pekerman is extremely good at building a team around one star player and after James break out golden boot performance in 2014, the past four years have been built around him.

James was involved in 50% of goals during CONMEBOL qualifying and Pekerman tinkered with 60 different players in that time to find the best XI (17 more than the 2014 squad).

Supporting James will be Cuadrado on his right and Falcao playing in front. It is foolish to discount Captain Falcao, the countries all-time leading goal scorer. When he is on the pitch this team is a completely different unit.

Colombia will go how James Rodriguez goes.

The betting markets involving Colombia have been very interesting.

Their outright World Cup price has drifted from 16.0 to 41.0 since the draw, with much of the movement occurring in May. This is peculiar due to the fact that up until June 9th when left back Frank Fabra went down with injury, there were no injury names anywhere on the 23 man roster. The group odds have also drifted out from 2.4 to 3.0 as many rush to the betting window expecting Senegal to play spoiler.

The thing that puts me off is that the match price vs. Japan has dipped and continues to shorten. There is a lack of belief from the market that Colombia can run deep into the tournament, but, not one that it can perform in the opener.

I believe this comes down to opposing competition. Colombia is notorious for not being able to take the next step despite being priced to a premium. They did not earn a win against any of the automatic qualifiers from South America during their campaign but feasted on weaker competition.

Colombia matches up very well against Japan. They beat up on them 4-1 with multiple reserves starting in 2014 and could put forth a similar result on Tuesday. Japan fired their coach in April and have had only three friendlies to prepare. The ex-manager was considering leaving off some aging star names and was axed due to pressure from sponsors. The current manager brought all of those veteran players in question (who all had very limited playing time during qualification) back last minute and the squad arrives in Russia with an average age of 28, loaded with question marks.

Lack of stability and preparation is problematic against Colombia because of the unique delayed pressing style they employ. If you watch closely, you will see it often. Colombia will attack, and as soon as possession changes, they will retreat. But, they only go back a few steps until the other team starts their build up. The Colombia front will then turn and press the ball carrier full steam.

Without ample game planning and a defined press break from the back line, the Colombian defence can drive teams mad. Japan can’t confidently name a starting XI and I do not believe they are prepared for 90 minutes of breaking the pressure.

Aside from breaking the press, the one other way to defeat Colombia is to eliminate James. The Colombian midfielder is feisty, but if he is taken out of the match, Cuadrado tries to overplay and the link between midfield and attack dries up.

There is no more surprise factor in Colombia’s benefit as there was in 2014. Everyone knows fouling and roughing up James is the way to win. The problem for Japan is that they don’t have players who can comfortably enforce physical play and much like breaking the press, I do not see a way for them to carry out this game plan.

This leaves Colombia likely to be in control start to finish. When the match goes their way, they are relentless at grinding down opponents and wearing them out.

This match will be a win for the South American side who I believe should be priced at 1.60.

Recommended Bet

  • Colombia 1.72 (risking 1.38x)

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