Colombia coach Jose Pekerman is toying with the idea of playing attacking midfielders James Rodriguez and Juan Fernando Quintero in tandem during Sunday’s crucial World Cup clash with Poland.
James was unable to start Colombia’s World Cup opener, a 2-1 defeat to Japan, due to a calf issue and came on for Quintero, who scored their only goal, in the 59th minute.
With Colombia needing to kickstart their campaign with a victory, Pekerman accepts he is likely to make changes to his team and playing James and Quintero together is something he has considered.
“Definitely, James is a vital player for our national squad,” Pekerman told reporters at his pre-match news conference in Kazan.
“James is doing very well and that’s what we’ve seen in training. He played a number of minutes in the last match, giving him confidence, and there were a number of things we had to fine tune.
“He worked hard in the last few days and we hope he’ll be in 100 per cent top form tomorrow.
“I won’t give a staring XI and I won’t tell you if they play together, there are lots of variables.
“I can remark on the past, but I won’t talk about things that haven’t happened yet. They are both important and we can play them together, but we must take into account important things.
“Quintero was absent from the national team for a while and then he joined again a while ago.
“We know he has many qualities, but we must take lots into consideration [when making selections] like injuries, like the one with James.
Entrenamiento de la Selección Colombia en Kazán con la mira en Polonia. #MiCorazónTricolor #Rusia2018 pic.twitter.com/97IMFB5HYz
— Selección Colombia (@FCFSeleccionCol) June 21, 2018
“All that makes things more difficult, it jeopardises us to think about certain things too much. But definitely they can play together and if they are top form we are tempted to play them together.”
Experienced AC Milan defender Cristian Zapata could come into the centre of defence, but Pekerman seems hesitant to do so given his injury problems just before the World Cup.
“We are looking at all of this on a daily basis,” Pekerman added. “Zapata hadn’t played that regularly and when he did he got injures.
“He recovered gradually but we have that doubt until the last minute. Because of his experience he’s an interesting, important player for Colombia, but we are talking about an important position and can’t make a mistake there.
“In that position it’s important to have a player in tip-top shape. He is recovering, but we must assess him.”