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Last Updated: Monday, 30 May, 2005, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
Colombia ready for England test
By Tim Vickery

Colombia coach Reinaldo Rueda
If we don't get a good result (against England) then there's a chance that the public's lack of belief in the team will increase
Reinaldo Rueda,
Colombia coach
There is no doubt Colombia are taking Tuesday's New Jersey meeting with Sven-Goran Eriksson's men seriously.

Having the chance to take on England is always a big moment for Colombian football - their hugely impressive 1-1 draw on the first visit to Wembley in 1988 is generally seen as a key moment in their development.

This time, though, their thoughts are less on historical prestige, and more on the pressing demands of the present.

Coach Reinaldo Rueda's side have two crunch World Cup qualifiers coming up.

They are at home to Peru on Saturday and Ecuador the following Wednesday, and they badly need maximum points from those matches.

In this quest, two things are vital.

First is the support of the crowd in Barranquilla, the steaming Caribbean port where they stage their home matches.

After Colombia's last game there, a 1-0 win over Bolivia in November, Rueda described the response of the supporters as 'lamentable'.

The England game offers a chance to test out a more attacking formation with a more aggressive mentality

To make home advantage count, Rueda is aware that he needs the fans to get behind the team, and a good showing against England will help.

"If we play well on Tuesday it will motivate the people," he said.

"But if we don't get a good result then there's a chance that the public's lack of belief in the team will increase, and then the atmosphere when we host Peru will not be the best."

Even more important, Rueda needs to find a formula that allows his side to create more chances and score more goals.

It might go against the happy-go-lucky stereotype, but Colombia have the best defence in South America, and the worst attack.

It is a deep-rooted problem in Colombian football.

They have excellent goalkeepers, world class centre-backs and some good midfielders. But producing penalty area specialist strikers is not their strongpoint.

For example, senior striker Juan Pablo Angel only learned to become a goalscorer after he went to River Plate in Argentina.

Juan Pablo Angel
Aston Villa's Angel carries the goal-scoring burden in attack

The lack of firepower cost the team a place in the last World Cup, and history is well along the way to being repeated.

In the last six rounds of qualifiers they have scored two and conceded two. If they fail to improve on the 'goals for' column then they will not make it to Germany.

"We're in a situation where we have to risk more, to take the initiative in the game, though without despair or losing our shape," Rueda said last week.

The England game offers him a chance to test out a more attacking formation with a more aggressive mentality.

Angel complains about a lack of support, especially down the flanks.

Rueda now has the opportunity to pair him for the first time with Edixon Perea, a strong, skilful and dynamic 21-year-old striker who is a dangerous marksman in domestic football.

Another to look out for is Tressor Moreno, an intelligent and mobile player who operates best in the hole behind the strikers.

Central midfielder Jhon Restrepo is crucial to the balance of the team.

He normally fields a back four - 3-5-2 might well be a sign of desperation

A tough tackler, he can also launch probing long-range passes, and will be expected to get the ball forward quickly to the front men.

The most impressive part of the team is the centre-back combination between the imperious Mario Yepes and the rapid, rugged Ivan Cordoba.

Luis Amaranto Perea, is another superb defender, normally used at right back.

Rueda is under pressure to field all three as centre-backs, giving his wing-backs more freedom to push forward.

He normally fields a back four, so if he does go with 3-5-2 it might well be a sign of desperation.

Whatever the formation, he is likely to give an international debut to left-back Jair Benitez, a sleek runner who could help open up the flank.

Benitez, though, is a fiery character who was sent off in both of his last two games.

Rueda will be hoping that Benitez can bottle that aggression - and then help his team unleash it at the opposing goal.

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