Colombia's Copa America Hopes Depend On Which James Will Show Up

Don’t you miss that guy? Almost two years have gone by since the 2014 Brazil World Cup, and James Rodriguez’s face is still on a missing person’s poster.

His string of amazing performances in Brazil earned Rodriguez not only world recognition but also a hefty £63 million move to Real Madrid. And yet, he’s still not performing at the level most expected him to.

Rodriguez finished the 2015-16 season with 12 goals and 12 assists in 45 games played. Not the numbers we expected, but not too shabby for someone who appeared as a substitute in 14 of those matches.

He has been a solid performer for Colombia in the South American World Cup Qualifiers with a pair of goals and two assists so far, but for Jose Pekerman’s team to dream of a title in the US they will need the James of Brazil 2014 back.

Luckily for them, that guy is still around, just check out the mayhem he causes during practices with Real Madrid. Now Pekerman just needs his No. 10 to do those things on the field when it counts.

Here are 3 more Colombian players to watch at the Copa America:

Juan Cuadrado

Juan Cuadrado Colombia Copa America

Photo: @raulbrindis | Twitter

Cuadrado has impressed so much during his loan at Juventus that the Bianconeri’s boss Massimo Allegri is keen on making a deal with Chelsea in order to keep the Colombian winger.

The 28-year-old made 41 appearances for Allegri, scoring five goals and gifting teammates eight assists. For Colombia Cuadrado will play a crucial role as the leading playmaker on the wings for Pekerman. So far he has tallied a pair of assists in four World Cup qualifier matches.

Like Rodriguez, Cuadrado had a breakout 2014 World Cup, where he scored one goal and dished out four assists. Pekerman and Colombia fans will all be hoping Cuadrado manages to emulate that sort of performance in the US this summer.

David Ospina

David Ospina Copa America Colombia

Photo: @DareToWilsh | Twitter

Ospina didn’t have the year he expected with Arsenal, featuring in only 12 matches with the English club.

He is the most likely to start for Pekerman in goal, but he still has a good deal to prove. Ospina has only managed one clean sheet so far in six World Cup qualifier matches, conceding eight goals.

In the US Ospina will have the protection of Jeison Murilla and veteran Cristian Zapata at center back, which could provide the Colombian goalkeeper with a good deal of opportunities to show his worth.

Surprise To Look Out For: Carlos Bacca

Carlos Bacca Colombia Copa America

Photo: @Futbol_Europa | Twitter

Not as much a “who can surprise” as a “who has to perform,” Carlos Bacca will be under the microscope at the Copa America.

Take a minute and look at the strikers on Colombia’s roster for this tournament. Who’s missing? Household names like Teofilo Gutierrez, Abel Aguilar, Adrian Ramos, and Victor Ibarbo were all left to dry by Pekerman. Instead, the Argentinian manager put his money on young prospects like 19-year-old Marlos Moreno of Atletico Nacional and 21-year-old Roger Moreno of Racing; Which means that Bacca will be the centerpiece and the main goal-scoring threat for Los Cafeteros in this edition of the tournament.  

It won’t be an easy competition for the 29-year-old, but the AC Milan striker does have the numbers to lift the hopes of Colombian fans. Counting both national team and club appearances, Bacca has 22 goals and three assists in 2015-16.

Notable absences: Teofilo Gutierrez, Abel Aguilar, Adrian Ramos, Victor Ibarbo.

Complete 23-man Colombia Squad:

Goalkeepers: Cristian Bonilla (Atletico Nacional), David Ospina (Arsenal), Robinson Zapata (Santa Fe)

Defenders: Felipe Aguilar (Atletico Nacional), Santiago Arias (PSV), Farid Diaz (Atletico Nacional), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors), Stefan Medina (Pachuca), Jeison Murillo (Inter Milan), Oscar Murillo (Pachuca), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan)

Midfielders: Edwin Cardona (Monterrey), Guillermo Celis (Junior), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus), Sebastian Perez (Atletico Nacional), Andres Felipe Roa (Deportivo Cali), James Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Carlos Sanchez (Aston Villa), Daniel Torres (Independiente Medellin)

Forwards: Carlos Bacca (AC Milan), Roger Martinez (Racing Club), Marlos Moreno (Atletico Nacional), Dayro Moreno (Club Tijuana)

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