Falcao flops as Colombia undone by spirited Venezuela

COMMENT: The star-studded Cafeteros must assess the position of their famous striker as they failed to even pose a threat in their 1-0 Copa America defeat
By Peter Staunton in Rancagua

Colombia no doubt boast the better quality but their stars could not align. Instead they were undone by the superior levels of diligence and organisation in the Venezuela contingent here in Rancagua. The upshot of this 1-0 win for the Vinotinto is that they are again threatening to invert the natural order of football in South America.

In 2011 they held Brazil scoreless in their first game before a run all the way to the semi-finals. Plenty of that team are still around and in Oswaldo Vizcarrondo in particular they have a player who typifies their concentrated and redoubtable approach which is still evident four years on. 

There were no indications, though, that Venezuela would come to this tournament and repeat their 2011 exploits and certainly not against the world's fourth-ranked team Colombia. Venezuela finished fourth from bottom in the 2014 World Cup South American qualification section and have enjoyed only modest successes over Honduras and Peru in the run up to this tournament. There was even a loss to Jamaica thrown in for good measure. 

However, it all came together here and they executed a gameplan to perfection. Colombia were frustrated by Venezuela's ability to keep them at arms' length in midfield with little or no space offered for James and Co. to weave their magic. The goal, when it came, was predictable in the sense that it was the most likely way Venezuela would score. Wide-men Ronald Vargas and Alejandro Guerra were too quick and skilful for the Colombian full-backs all evening; they combined before the impressive Salomon Rondon aimed a header into David Ospina's bottom corner. 

It could have been worse for Colombia as it was Venezuela, through Guerra and Vargas, who had the better of the first-half chances too.  

Simply put, Colombia could not get into gear. Their moves broke down early. Their players looked exasperated with each other as more and more passes went astray and more and more decisions were made incorrectly. Jose Pekerman tried to alter things by bringing on more and more forward players; Edwin Cardona, Teo Gutierrez, Jackson Martinez. They only seemed to get in the way of the players already malfunctioning at that end of the field.  

Radamel Falcao toiled as he has done all season for Manchester United. It is coming to crunch time for Pekerman. He has got to accept that the man, the leader, the legend revered by the Colombian public is no longer there and instead give more opportunities to Jackson Martinez. The Porto man only got a brief run out here but was still able to make a chance for Juan Cuadrado late on.

He was the only bright point. Jose Mourinho has promised to find the real Falcao at Chelsea next season; that version he seeks is a myth but the "Special One" would do well to divert some attention the way of Cuadrado. He carried the fight to Venezuela and did not deserve to be on the losing side; Mourinho says he has high hopes for next season.

It could be a very different Colombia which lines up against Brazil on Wednesday in Santiago, starting with the dropping of Falcao. Pekerman's side are in danger of going out in the groups; a stunning turnaround from their nine points from nine in the opening phase of last year's World Cup. With eight teams progressing from 12 here, it is virtually impossible for half-decent teams to drop out at that stage. Yet, remarkably, Colombia are facing that situation.

Argentina took a warning shot from Paraguay on Saturday that Colombia failed to heed. Venezuela proved that a team of seemingly ordinary players is always in with a chance of a random assortment of stars.