Edwin Cardona dominated the midfield for Colombia during Copa America’s opening game. He will look to shine again in a more central role against Paraguay.
PASADENA, Calif. – No James Rodríguez, no problem.
At least that’s the feeling around the Colombian camp ahead of their second Copa America game. Los Cafeteros are set to face Paraguay in Group A and they’ll do so without their star midfielder, who injured his left shoulder after falling awkwardly during the team’s 2-0 opening win against the United States last Friday.
With the Real Madrid star out of the lineup, all eyes will turn to Monterrey’s Edwin Cardona, who had a solid outing against the Americans. Cardona, who played out wide and recorded Colombia’s first assist of Copa America, is expected to play in a more central role against Paraguay on Tuesday, an assignment he doesn’t mind having.
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“That’s why we train, to be prepared for these moments,” said Cardona during a press conference on Sunday. “If the moment comes when I have to step up in the position where my teammate was, I’ll do it for the benefit of my team.”
The responsibility to replace Rodríguez is obviously not going to fall solely on Cardona’s shoulders as Colombia’s coaching staff is already considering the players that will have to step up as well. Club Tijuana’s Dayro Moreno is the name that keeps coming up because of his ability to play in a deeper role despite being a striker.
“Dayro is a player who thinks like a forward but has a rhythm and a vision that allow us to use him well [in a different role],” said Colombia’s assistant coach Néstor Lorenzo. “He’s a versatile player who can finish plays but who can also help his teammates when coming from behind.”
Not that they should have any concerns offensively. Colombia head coach José Pérkeman has plenty of weapons at his disposal with Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado playing out wide and AC Milan’s Carlos Bacca as a lone striker.
Bacca wasn’t particularly involved in the first game against the US, although he came close to a third goal for Colombia in the 77th minute after collecting a through ball from Cardona and hitting a shot against the crossbar. Cardona noted the importance of keeping Bacca involved as he seemed disconnected during some stretches of the game.
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“We have to keep ourselves close to Bacca because we know how explosive he is,” said Cardona in regards to his role and Cuadrado’s. “We know he’s hugely important, but I know he can feel lonely up top. We’ll try to surround him better so that he can feel more comfortable playing as a lone number 9.”
On the defensive side of things, Pékerman’s men had been criticized for their weaknesses on set pieces coming into the tournament, though they responded well against the United States. Against Paraguay, the Colombians are expecting a highly physical affair.
“We know Paraguay will play hard and they are known for being physical and having strengths in the air,” said midfielder Sebastián Pérez, who will be in charge of patrolling the midfield defensively with Daniel Torres. “We have to be very careful.”
“Every game is different,” added Cardona. “We don’t know how they’re going to position themselves on the field, but we are aware that they know how to finish plays, how to run hard and play the game they like to play.”
The game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena is slated to start at 7:30 p.m. local time.