National team doctors announced yesterday that midfielder Macnelly Torres will not participate in Colombia’s World Cup Qualifier against Uruguay Tuesday.
Torres suffered a blow to his right knee in the closing minutes of Friday’s crucial home win over Ecuador, and did not fully recover in time for Tuesday’s game in Montevideo. Instead, the Al-Shabab man flew back to Colombia Monday, where he will finish out his recuperation period, expected to last a minimum of two weeks, at team training facilities in Barranquilla.
For most of the Qualifying campaign, Torres has been competing for playing time with James Rodriguez, Friday’s lone goal scorer and a likely fixture in the #10 role going forward. Against Ecuador, though, Torres started slightly behind Rodriguez, tucked in on the right side, ahead of a defensive pairing of Abel Aguilar and and Carlos Sanchez.
Now with Torres out, head coach Jose Pekerman will have to shuffle the midfield. If he chooses to stay narrow with the 4-2-2-2 he brought out against Ecuador, Inter Milan’s Freddy Guarin is used to playing the sort of box-to-box, centralized role Torres did Friday, and can cover enough ground to leave Rodriguez free to drift into spaces. Juan Fernando Quintero is another option, should Pekerman decide to press the attack against an Uruguayan back line ravaged by injuries.
Juan Cuadrado, a recent standout in friendlies and Qualifiers, came on as an early sub Friday for Abel Aguilar, providing more width and attacking initiative down the right side. With Uruguay’s starting left-back Martin Caseres out with a knee injury, Pekerman could revert to a 4-3-1-2 with Cuadrado in more of a wing midfield role, as a way of exposing Uruguay’s left flank.
But Colombia’s Pablo Armaro is ruled out for Tuesday on accumulated yellow cards, so Pekerman will have to decide if Cuadrado is more useful on the right wing in the midfield, where he has been most featured for Colombia, or on the opposite wing as a defender, a role he has taken on with his club side, Florentina.
Fortunately for Pekerman, Colombia has one of the deeper benches in the South American Qualifying group. With several viable replacement options for Torres and Armaro, and a Uruguayan side battling four key injuries, Colombia will head into Montevideo looking to seal its first World Cup birth since 1998.
The game airs at 5:30 pm local Colombian time Tuesday.