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Colombia's World Cup predictions

After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here, and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have each predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's Outlook gives a general view of its situation ahead of the tournament, while Pitfalls takes a look at any potential problems. Each blogger will also predict the top scorer and breakout star and suggest how far that nation can go.

OUTLOOK

Luck hasn't been kind to Colombia over the past few weeks. Radamel Falcao, Edwin Valencia, Luis Amaranto Perea and Aldo Leao Ramirez were important players in Colombia's first World Cup qualification in 16 years, but all will miss out this summer through injury. Talismanic striker Falcao scored nine goals in qualifying as he struck up a prolific partnership with Teo Gutierrez, but Colombia have plenty of top quality reserves able to step in.

The same can't be said for Valencia. The Fluminense defensive midfielder performed heroics in qualifying by helping patch up Colombia's wobbly defence, and his loss will heighten worries about the fragility of the team's back line. Still, Camilo Zuniga is back after his lengthy layoff, and in the attacking third Colombia are in rude health, with Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, James Rodriguez and Carlos Bacca all in impressive form. Scoring goals won't be a problem for Los Cafeteros.

PITFALLS

Colombia may have finished the CONMEBOL qualifiers with the best defensive record in South America, but there's no hiding the fact that their rear guard is the team's weak spot. Perea withdrew from the squad last week, leaving either Carlos Valdes or Cristian Zapata to strike up an immediate understanding with 38-year-old captain Mario Yepes in the back.

In the group stage, Colombia's defensive concerns should be easily masked. Coach Jose Pekerman's possession-based strategy is all about controlling play and taking the game to the opposition, often attacking with five or six players. Against Group C opponents Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan, Colombia should be successful in getting this tactic to work. But against a tougher rival that forces Colombia onto the back foot, the defensive side of their strategy quickly begins to unravel. The loss of Valencia in midfield will further hit the team hard, and it will be up to Carlos Sanchez to play a vital midfield role in papering over the cracks behind him.

STAR SCORER

Bacca. He arrives in Brazil on the back of an exceptional first season in La Liga with Sevilla and has already shown he is capable of stepping up and replacing Falcao by scoring a decent effort in Colombia's World Cup warm-up match against Senegal. As the favorite to start alongside Gutierrez as the team's main strikers, Bacca will have plenty of support. Gutierrez will drop off his partner in helping pull defenders out of position and create time and space for the 27-year-old, while Cuadrado's pace and trickery down the right and Rodriguez's sharp eye for the killer pass down the opposite wing should provide a rich blend of creative options. Combined with Pekerman's attacking philosophy, Bacca could be the man to help Colombia forget Falcao.

WILD CARD

Cuadrado. The winger is reportedly on Barcelona's shopping list after enjoying a strong season with Fiorentina, and his speed and quick feet down the right wing could be a crucial asset for Colombia. Pekerman is a big admirer of Cuadrado's talents and will rely on the winger to provide the inventiveness to break down teams like Group C rival Greece, which will defend stubbornly. Despite having a tendency to occasionally overdo things, in full flow Cuadrado is a joy to watch.

PREDICTION: Last 16

Colombia have an abundance of attacking talent, and that should see them past Group C and into the knockout stages. But against one of the stronger countries, they could be ruthlessly exposed at the back. Pekerman is one of the shrewdest coaches in Brazil, and his fluid attacking game will surely win them many neutral hearts this summer. While the team's main objective is to make the quarterfinals for the first time ever, a probable second-round tie versus Uruguay, England or Italy could prove too much. A lot depends on their defence.