Greeks will bear no gifts but seeds should have enough.
In the opening game in the most open of groups, with each of the four sides all harboring ambitions of topping Group C, both Colombia and Greece will be out to ensure their hopes are not dented at the end of 90 minutes in Belo Horizonte.
While a win would place either side in pole position, defeat will leave the vanquished with a mountain to climb – so a cagey encounter is expected.
Greece will do what they do best and are a real tournament team, meaning Fernando Santos’ side will happily settle for a draw against the seeded Colombians and take their chances elsewhere in the group. As ever they will be ultra-organised and difficult to break down.
The Colombians impressed when finishing second in the South American qualifying zone behind Argentina and, coached by the wily Argentine José Pékerman, look poised to qualify for the knock-out stages for only the second time.
In the absence of Radamel Falcao, Colombia will look to his Monaco team-mate James Rodriguez for inspiration. Long considered heir (thankfully not hair) apparent to Carlos Valderrama, the 22-year-old playmaker will look to create opportunities for the volatile Teofilo Gutierrez, who will be ably supported by the the likes of Porto’s Jackson Martinez, Sevilla’s Carols Bacca and Borussia Dortmund’s new signing Adrian Ramos in attack.
It’s 10 years since Greece pulled off the improbable when winning Euro 2004 and they still rely on veterans Giorgos Karagounis and Kostas Katsouranis for creative input in the middle of the park, albeit primarily from the substitutes’ bench.
The Greeks were quietly impressive in qualifying, only missing out on automatic qualification on goal difference before comfortably completing the job against Romania in the play-offs.
The key to their success was keeping it tight, recording eight clean sheets (from 10 games played) in qualifying so they won’t leak many here to a Falcao-less Colombia.
The South Americans should possess enough quality, however, to eventually wear down the Europeans and HT/FT Draw/Colombia at 3/1 represents decent value.
The match kicks off at 5pm UK time on Saturday, June 14th in Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte.