Sau Paulo, June 18: Yerry Mina explained Colombia's Copa America campaign is being built around a solid defence as he and his team-mates prepare to face Qatar on the back of a 2-0 win over Argentina.
Head coach Carlos Queiroz paired Mina with Davinson Sanchez at the centre of a defence that kept Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero at bay as Colombia opened the competition with an impressive display against one of the tournament favourites.
Colombia triumphed courtesy of goals from second-half substitutes Roger Martinez and Duvan Zapata inside the last 20 minutes of Saturday's game, but Mina underlined the importance of their miserly rearguard performance.
"The plan was clear," Mina told reporters. "We tried to play our own game and close the spaces. We were good and that gave us a platform from which to attack.
"We have to think about what is coming. The defence is the most important for us, and keeping a clean sheet. That requires great focus at the back.
"We are aware that we are not yet where we want to be, but we are working step by step."
Queiroz was left with concerns over the fitness of midfielder Wilmar Barrios after he suffered a knee injury during the victory over Argentina.
Jefferson Lerma is on standby to replace Zenit playmaker should he fail to recover in time to face Qatar on Wednesday, but Barrios gave a positive assessment of his own condition as he picked out fellow midfielders Mateus Uribe and Juan Cuadrado as being key to Colombia's success.
"From back to front we were always safe," said Barrios.
"Having players like Mateus and Cuadrado, who track back and contribute goals, makes us well placed not to be beaten out wide."
Recalling his injury, he added: "It was a play in the second half. I recovered the ball almost in our area and my knee went. We did routine exams to be sure that everything is fine and thank God it's nothing, I'm fine."
Qatar staged a late fightback to claim a point from their Copa America opener against Paraguay, scoring twice in nine second-half minutes to clinch a 2-2 draw.
Head coach Felix Sanchez called for improvements from his defence against Colombia, saying: "The team has shown that we can turn games around.
"We had our chances and we took them. For us it is very positive but we cannot forget that we conceded goals that we should have avoided."
He added: "The level shown by Colombia on Saturday [against Argentina] was very high.
"It is a team with many strengths and few weaknesses, we are going to try to compete as well as we can."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Colombia – David Ospina
Napoli goalkeeper Ospina had little to do for almost an hour against Argentina but when called upon he did not let Colombia down.
The 30-year-old pulled off crucial saves to deny Leandro Paredes and Nicolas Otamendi that gave Colombia the confidence to go on and win.
Qatar – Abdulaziz Hatem
Almoez Ali took the plaudits after scoring in Qatar's 2-2 draw with Paraguay, but tucked in behind him was Al Gharafa forward Abdulaziz Hatem, who scored two goals in six appearances for Qatar at the AFC Asian Cup and will be out to cause Mina and Davinson Sanchez problems.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Colombia have kept seven clean sheets in their last 10 Copa America games (W5 D3 L2), however they have lost two of the three games in which they have conceded during this period (W1).
- Colombia and Qatar will face each other for the first time ever.
- Colombia have lost only three of their last 13 meetings with Asian nations (W8 D2), however those three losses have come in their last five such games (W2).
- After winning none of their first five meetings with CONMEBOL nations (D2 L3), Qatar have won two of their last five games against South American national teams (D1 L2).
- Colombia will be Qatar’s sixth different opponent from CONMEBOL, after Argentina (lost), Brazil (lost), Ecuador (W1 D1 L1), Peru (lost) and Paraguay (W1 D2 L1).
- Queiroz's men scored two goals against Argentina in their first game of the 2019 Copa America, from just two shots on target (8 shots attempted in total).