No game in FIFA’s CONMEBOL division can ever be taken for granted, especially an away game without a country’s best player. That was the case for Colombia last week, when the coach José Néstor Pekerman decided not to use injured team captain James Rodríguez. Colombia has only ever defeated Venezuela in FIFA World Cup qualifiers once, that win coming in 1996.
From the beginning, neither side was dominant in the match and possession changed hands often. The number of fouls slowed the pace of the game. There were opportunities on both sides, but neither was able to take advantage of their opportunities.
The first opportunity was handed to Venezuela in the 10th minute, when Tomás Rincón’s shot was deflected by Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina without a problem. Later in minute 12, Venezuelan striker Josef Martínez found himself in great position but missed the goal entirely.
It wasn’t until minute 30 that the Colombian team had a viable opportunity, when Frank Fabra managed to make a well-centered shot. Nonetheless, goalkeeper William Fariñez, by most accounts the star of the match, neutralized the shot.
There was more action in the second half, starting at the minute 46 when Juan Guillermo Cuadrado attempted an approach into enemy territory. Colombia held the ball until minute 52, but were once again frustrated by Fariñez.
The Colombian side seemed fatigued toward the end of the second half, and several lapses in defense resulted in Venezuelan opportunities. However Ospina stood strong against the attacks and neither side was able to score before time expired.
The tie puts Colombia in a precarious situation in the table. Though they remain in the second position, they are only one point ahead of Uruguay and two points away from falling out of qualification. They face a tough challenge in Brazil this Tuesday, while their rivals face easier opponents with Argentina at home against Venezuela, Chile against Bolivia, and Uruguay against Paraguay.
James Rodriguez is expected to play in Barranquilla in the game against Brazil.