Sao Paulo, June 27: Colombia boss Carlos Queiroz issued an ominous warning to defending Copa America champions Chile ahead of a much-anticipated quarter-final in Sao Paulo.
Colombia have hit the ground running in Brazil and were the only nation to win all three matches in the group stages. That they did so without conceding a goal will only add to the confidence in the Colombia camp as they prepare to face a Chile side who have won the last two Copa America titles.
Queiroz is convinced there is more to come from his team, though, insistent that they are just a work in progress at the moment.
"We're a long way from the football we want to see," he said ahead of the last-eight clash on Friday.
Speaking about the depth of his squad, Queiroz added: "I have a beautiful but very difficult [selection] headache!"
One of the changes Queiroz is likely contemplating is the potential axing of experienced striker Radamel Falcao, who is yet to score in the tournament. Duvan Zapata – fresh off a Serie A season where he scored 23 goals for Atalanta – has already netted twice in Brazil and could come in for Falcao.
This is Colombia's fourth Copa America quarter-final appearance in a row but they have not scored in their past three.
Chile also regularly qualify for the last eight, having now done so on five successive occasions, and in boss Reinaldo Rueda, they have a man in charge who knows plenty about Colombian football. Cali-born Rueda has not only managed a host of Colombian clubs in his career, he also coached the national team from 2004 to 2006.
Rueda took the Chile job in January last year after the nation surprisingly failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
At this year's Copa America, he led his team to victories against Japan and Ecuador before resting Arturo Vidal, Mauricio Isla and Jean Beausejour for a clash with Uruguay as the trio were on the brink of being suspended for the quarter-finals. Chile lost that match 1-0.
Chile have history on their side, having beaten Colombia all three times they have faced them in Copa America knockout fixtures. That streak includes a 2-0 success in the 2016 semi-finals, with Charles Aranguiz and Jose Pedro Fuenzalida scoring in the first 11 minutes of that encounter.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Colombia – James Rodriguez
Attacking midfielder James is yet to score at the tournament but has been at the heart of his side's best moves, creating 12 chances on goal.
Chile – Charles Aranguiz
No player provided more assists in the group stages, the 30-year-old supplying three, two of which have been scored by Alexis Sanchez.
KEY OPTA FACTS
- Chile are undefeated against Colombia at neutral venues in all competitions; they have won six of the seven clashes, including the last five in a row. - Colombia have won without conceding a goal in their last four Copa America games, it is their second longest such run in the competition; they enjoyed eight wins without conceding between 2001 and 2004. - Chile have lost only two of their 15 Copa America games since 2015 (10 W 3D); one of those was the most recent, 0-1 against Uruguay. - Chile are one of the three teams with the most wins against Colombia in Copa America (also Argentina and Brazil); La Roja have won seven of their 11 games against the Cafeteros in the competition (2D 2L).