Colombia coach gives 4-point wish list for World Cup match

FILE - In this file photo from June 19, 2018, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman gestures during the World Cup match between Colombia and Japan at the Mordavia Arena in Saransk, Russia. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

KAZAN, Russia (AP) Colombia coach Jose Pekerman gave his wish list for the team’s next match against Poland, most importantly keeping all 11 players on the pitch.

In a disappointing 2-1 loss to Japan in Colombia’s first match, the South Americans were reduced to 10 men and a goal behind in the opening minutes.

Pekerman has noticed that it has been very difficult to overturn deficits at this year’s tournament. Switzerland’s 2-1 victory over Serbia on Friday was the first game to see a side come from behind to win.

While all coaches want to see their team score first, Pekerman’s desire takes on special significance since only one team has done it so far.

”When there are teams ahead with an advantage, it’s not easy in the World Cup to turn things around,” Pekerman told reporters Saturday on the eve of the Group H match at Kazan Arena.

Both Poland and Colombia have lost their opening match, to Senegal and Japan respectively, and could be eliminated with a loss. Japan and Senegal are up against each other in the pool’s other match Sunday.

Pekerman was bombarded with questions about his lineup and hinted that playmaker James Rodriguez could be given a starting role. Rodriguez, the top scorer at the 2014 World Cup in Colombia’s surprising run to the quarterfinals, was used as a second-half substitute during the loss to Japan after being hampered by a calf injury.

”James is a vital player in our national squad. He is doing very well in the training sessions,” Pekerman said. ”He played a number of minutes in the previous match, that gave him confidence. There is still a number of things we need to fine tune, but hopefully he will be 100 percent ready.”

Against Japan, Colombia trailed 1-0 after only six minutes following the expulsion of midfielder Carlos Sanchez for handling a goal-bound shot in the third minute, which was the second-fastest red card in World Cup history.

Pekerman hopes he will keep all 11 players on the pitch against Poland, in a four-point list of to-do things that could help Colombia win the match.

”No. 1 thing, football is 11 against 11, this is our priority, this is how football works” Pekerman said.

”No. 2, we want to be able to have a number of players in top shape. I’m talking about vital players.”

”No. 3, we need to regain our confidence, the one we had coming to Russia.”

”No. 4 is harmony. We all want to achieve the same goal, and we can feel that harmony now.”

To counter the imposing Polish players and their attacking leader, Robert Lewandowski, who has scored 21 goals in his last 16 appearances for his national team, Pekerman said he will opt for a man-marking defense.

”We want to win every single duel,” Pekerman said. ”If we do that, we will have chances to score and win.”

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