On par with Argentina losing Lionel Messi or Portugal going without Cristiano Ronaldo, Radamel Falcao's absence is a major blow to the status of Colombia's World Cup squad. The prolific striker had scored 9 goals in 12 starts for Colombia in World Cup qualifying, three more than his closest teammate. Still, the South Americans shouldn't be overlooked in this tournament and will carry a bit of home-turf advantage over their Group C opponents. Here's the 23-man squad:
David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali), Camilo Vargas (Independiente Santa Fe)
Mario Yepes (AC Milan), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Pablo Armero (West Ham, on loan from Napoli), Camilo Zuniga (Napoli), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate), Carlos Valdes (San Lorenzo)
Fredy Guarin (Inter Milan), Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina), James Rodriguez (Monaco), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Juan Fernando Quintero (Porto), Carlos Sanchez (Elche), Aldo Leao Ramirez (Morelia), Alexander Mejia (Atletico Nacional)
Fantasy Players To Watch
Camilo Zuniga - Much of the build-up play for Colombia comes from the fullback positions, and while clean sheets may not be easy to come by with aging center backs (combined age: 73), the attacking contributions from out wide should more than compensate. The Napoli right back was instrumental in qualifying and will be a key cog in the Colombia machine.
Pablo Armero - Zuniga's counterpart and Napoli team-mate didn't see much action in his January loan move to West Ham United, but has enjoyed a much more important role for the national team. Much like Zuniga, the left back will be heavily involved in the attack and should be expected to contribute assists from the wide areas.
James Rodriguez - Falcao's teammate at Monaco, Rodriguez is one of the most exciting prospects in world football. Still just 22 years old, the attacking midfielder has scored 48 goals at club level for top-tier teams like Porto. With 9 goals and 12 assists in his debut season in Ligue 1, the midfielder has earned a starting spot and looks to have taken over penalty duty from Falcao as well.
Jackson Martinez - The like-for-like replacement for Falcao, Martinez has enjoyed a fantastic couple seasons with Porto, scoring 46 goals in just 60 appearances since arriving in 2012. There's not much evidence of how he will perform with the national team, however, due to the preference to play Falcao. A direct, strong forward with excellent finishing skills, he should have plenty of opportunities to make the opposition pay.
Teofilo Gutierrez - Playing as a slightly withdrawn striker during qualifying, Gutierrez scored 6 goals in 10 starts and will look to latch on to layoffs from Martinez. Most likely a dark-horse type of pick, he should come in reasonably priced and would represent good value as a bench player and spot-starter in your team.