Colombia’s national soccer team continued preparations for this summer’s World Cup with a 0-0 draw against Australia in London’s Craven Cottage.
Despite dominating the majority of the game, the Colombians missed a host of chances including an 86th minute Miguel Borja penalty and were left frustrated by a spirited Australian side who will be pleased to bounce back from a heavy 4-1 defeat by Norway last week.
As expected, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman made several changes from the team that put France to the sword last Thursday with Oscar Murillo, Cristian Zapata and Johan Mojica coming into a new-look defense, Wilmar Barrios joining the midfield and Carlos Bacca accompanying Radamel Falcao up front.
Colombia started the game on the front foot and could have gone ahead in the fifth minute when Mateus Uribe headered narrowly wide from a searching James Rodriguez cross from the right.
The game subsequently failed to gather any real momentum with the majority of the first half fought out in frantic exchanges in the midfield as the robust Australians attempted to deny Colombia any real space to play.
Colombia attempted to bring some width to the attack late on in the half and again went close when James got on the end of a Mojica cross from the left but the Bayern Munich man failed to test Brad Jones in the Australia goal.
The Australians themselves failed to provide anything significant going forward with a Mathew Leckie header from a 37th minute Massimo Luongo corner and a Tomi Juric shot across David Ospina’s box in the 43rd representing their only significant efforts on goal as the teams went in scoreless at half time.
Pekerman introduced Jefferson Lerma and Miguel Borja after the break as Colombia sought to find the balance that the side had lacked in the first half and “Los Cafeteros” began well.
Palmeiras striker Borja immediately caused problems for the Australian defense sending a bicycle kick towards Vukovic’s goal in the 47th minute.
The former Atletico Nacional forward had the ball in the net in the 54th minute, only to see it ruled out for offside.
As the game sparked into life, Rodriguez had a powerful header stopped by Vukovic in the 61st minute and Borja himself headed wide a couple of minutes later when it seemed easier to score.
The “Socceroos” threatened when Luongo made an incisive run through the Colombian defense but shot straight at Ospina who saved comfortably.
Borja continued to be a thorn in the Australian side and almost scored in the 80th minute when his header rebounded off the post.
The drama continued for Borja five minutes later when he was brought down in the box to win a penalty for his side. He stepped up to take the spot-kick himself but was denied by a fantastic save from Vukovic, who was enjoying his international debut on his 33rd birthday.
With the Australians defending for their lives in the closing stages, lady luck deserted Borja yet again when the post made another intervention to prevent a close range left footed shot entering the net at the death.
Colombia’s veteran coach Pekerman took the opportunity to give game time to as many players as possible and will now have plenty to think about in advance of the upcoming World Cup.
His gamble to play Bacca and Falcao together up front certainly did not yield a sufficient return but the performances of Johan Mojica at left back and Wilmar Barrios in midfield will be cause for some optimism.
The Argentine will also hope that center back Oscar Murillo will make a swift recovery from an injury that saw him stretchered off the field in the 51st minute.
Colombia will face Egypt in Atlanta on June 1 in a final friendly game before travelling to Kazan, Russia where they will set up base for the World Cup.
The South Americans will face group stage games against Japan, Senegal and Poland in the tournment after being drawn in Group H.
32 teams will take part in 48 matches in the group stage to determine who qualifies for the second round of the tournament with the top two teams advancing from each group.