An entire nation held it's breath on Thursday evening, Brazil prepared to begin the World Cup at home for the second time. Meanwhile, the rest of the World looked on with envy, ready for a mouthwatering fixture. The fascinating encounters continued and Group C begins with yet another as Colombia attempt to return from a 16 year absence with a solid victory over Greece.
Los Cafeteros travel to Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte as clear favourites. The Colombians have one of the most potent attacks in the World and has been built up hugely in preparation for their first match.
Greece have their own strengths that cannot be matched by the Tricolour. The Greeks have a defence willing to go to extraordinary lengths to swarm the opposition's attack.
In large contrast to Greece, Colombia's weakness is in it's defence where Jose Pekerman is in favour of starting Pablo Armero, who spent lat season on loan at West Ham, on the right flank. On the opposite side, Camilo Zúñiga is expected to start. Zúñiga has been reliable in Italy this year, playing his trade with Napoli. In the middle, Pekerman consistently chooses AC Milan's Cristian Zapata and Mario Yepes of Atalanta. Behind the four defenders lies Nice's David Ospina who has been in solid form in France this season.
Pekerman should line up with Fredy Guarin and Abel Aguilar, Inter Milan and Toulouse are the experienced duo in midfield which will give the attacking stlye of play a sense of balance. On the wings are where the Greek full-backs, Jose Holebas and Vasilis Torosidis, will have to be at their very best. The Olympiakos and Roma pairing are up against one of Ligue 1's most phenemonal figures, James Rodriguez. Rodriguez moved to Monaco last summer from Portugal and has shone like a diamond, his partnership with Falcao will be missed following Falcao's injury but Rodriguez could be the game-changer with his astounding pace and quite remarkable talent on the ball. On the opposite side is Juan Cuadrado, who only came to light in Europe this season as he helped guide Fiorentina to a 4th placed finish in Italy this season. Up front is the well known Jackson Martinez who has been labelled as a possible golden boot winner following an exceptional season in Portugal. Who will partner him is anyone's guess but Pekerman has the option of high-flying Bundesliga striker, Adrian Ramos, La Liga's Carlos Bacca along with Teo Gutierrez and Luis Fernando Muriel. Adrian Ramos and Carlos Bacca are the more prolific of the four but Gutierrez started in Colombia's warm up friendly against Jordan.
Greece will be hoping for six points against the Ivory Coast and Japan combined because a win in their first match against the CONMEBOL runners-up is improbable to give them anything more than a loss. Starting in goal for the Greeks should be Orestis Karnezis while in front of him should start a centre-back pairing of Sokratis Papastathopoulos who signed for Borussia Dortmund last summer and Kostas Manolas, who is a regular for Olympiakos.
Since Greece's remarkable win in Portugal in 2004, 10 years ago, they have deviated little on their defensive style of play but current manager, Fernando Santos has attempted to introduce some more flutdity into a side known for their resolute defending. Fluidity is likely to come through the midfield but it is by no means a strong one. Giorgos Karagounis may be the main man, the heart of the midfield on Saturday and the thirty-six year old will struggle to keep up with the intense play of Colombia. Playing just behind Karagounis is usually Alexandros Tziolis with one other rotating partner. Greece play a five-man midfield with Georgio Samaras on the fight flank and Dimitris Salpingidis on the left. Up front is their main man and the one man who could tilt the game in Greece's favour. Kostas Mirtoglou moved away from Greece in February to no prevail but remains the key man for the Greeks.
Key Player: James Rodriguez - The Monaco man has flair in abundance and with Colombia expected to get a comfortable win in Belo Horizonte, Rodriguez will show the World he can match the excitement of Neymar and Ronaldo and Messi.
It's hard to look any where else except a Colombia victory but Greece's relentless defence could transform a fluid, attacking team (Colombia) into frustrated side lacking chances.