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A regular series as part of our World Cup coverage under the Talent Radar banner is aimed at the tons of aspiring football hipsters out there. We will track the progress of all young players at the World Cup, focusing on each and every game and compiling a detailed analysis. The eligibility criteria for this is simple, the player must have been 21 or below at the start of the season (2013-14).
James Rodriguez is a young player who caught the attention of the footballing world 3 years back when he made an impact at the U20 World Cup. A move to Porto soon followed, and after spending time at the Portugese club, the talented Colombian made a big money move to Monaco along with his Porto team mate Joao Moutinho. Coming into the World Cup, the pressure is on James, as Radamel Falcao has been ruled out of the tournament due to his injury, and in the opener at least, James has lived up to the hype.
James Rodriguez was at #3 in our list of Talent Radar 25 Young Players to Watch at the World Cup
James Rodriguez also featured in our Talent Radar Youngsters Ligue 1 Team of the Season.
James was the playmaker for his side in this game, and everything went through him. It cant be a surprise then that he had a hand in all 3 goals that Colombia went on to score. His intelligent fake set up the space for Armero to shoot and score, he took a good near post corner for the second, and of course, scored a good goal to round the game up. The man ended up with 87 touches of the ball, the highest for anyone in his team. Colombia tried to attack with pace, and James was crucial to this process, with his accurate distribution. The youngster had an 88% pass completion, and that’s extremely impressive for an attacking midfielder. What really caught they eye was his running with the ball. James made a number of driving runs into the heart of the Greek defence which were hard to stop, and this was one of the most attractive aspects of his performance. James also put his educated left foot to good use. The player clearly favours the use of his left foot, and he has a very useful left foot as well.
James put in what was a very convincing performance for Colombia in a win that brought them 3 crucial points. He is clearly the most important player in this set up, as the rest of the team is looking to get the ball to him at every possible opportunity. He clearly didn’t ignore his defensive duties either, attempting 6 tackles. If Colombia are to continue their campaign into the knockout stages, performances from James will be very important. (Vishal Patel / Twitter)
Normally we wouldn’t include a player who is past the age limit (21 & below at the start of the season, in this case August 2013) but Manolas turned 23 just a day before the Colombia game, so we’ve made an exception.
Kostas Manolas is currently on the books of Olympiakos after earning a move from AEK Athens. Admittedly we didn’t know of Manolas prior to this past campaign, after he impressed in the Champions League particularly catching our attention in the 2-0 win over Manchester United. With Greece relying on a solid defence, Manolas was at the top of his game but also offered a rare attacking threat.
The Greek side, over the years, starting right from the famous Euro 2004 triumph have been known to depend largely on their defensive solidity. They make it compact at the back, with it proving to be extremely difficult for any side to break-through. They got through qualifying with that reputation finishing with the best defensive record among all European sides.
Kostas Manolas was exceptional in this regard, playing a key role in a solid Greek set-up vs Colombia. They kept the Colombian attack at bay for large parts of the game, and the 3-0 scoreline is a bit harsh on the efforts of the Olympiakos man. What particularly caught our attention was his ability to recover into position. He was able to beat the attackers of Colombia, pace for pace, to ensure he didn’t lose possession from a through ball. He was also important going forward, with 4 dribbles, more than anyone else on the pitch (yes, more than the Colombia attackers), displaying his ability to be deployed as a ball-playing defender. One might say he is a bit awkward for such a rigid Greek defensive set-up with ball-possession not being highly championed for a defender. He was the best player overall in the first half as Colombia sat-back after an early lead, but the gulf in class showed in the second. (Sami Faizullah / Twitter)