The Colombian soccer team will kick off its World Cup qualifying campaign Tuesday night, taking on Bolivia in La Paz.
In a shock move new coach Leonel Alvarez has announced he is to leave star striker Radamel Falcao Garcia on the bench, with Teofilo Gutierrez to lead the attack.
Gutierrez impressed fans on the recent friendly tour of the U.S, netting three times in two games. His inclusion ahead of the $57 million Atletico Madrid striker suggests Alvarez will play the unusual 4 -1- 4 -1 formation recently employed by Colombian team.
Bolivia will be keen to get their campaign back on track after losing 4-2 away to Uruguay in their first qualifier on Friday.
The Bolivians have a record of springing upsets against stronger teams at home in La Paz, as visitors struggle to acclimatise to playing at 11,800 feet above sea level. However, the Colombians should fare better than teams like Argentina and Brazil, who lost 6-1 and 2-1 respectively in the last round of World Cup qualifiers, as the “Cafeteros” are at least used to playing at 8,600 feet in Bogota.
Pablo Armero, Colombian defender with Italian team Udinese, said he expected the Bolivians to try and take advantage of the altitude by starting the game at a frenetic pace in the hope of rapidly tiring out their opponents.
Armero told journalists, “we all know that the first minutes are going to be difficult, but we have to be mentally prepared so we can get the points.”
Bolivian coach Gustavo Quinteros has confirmed he will be fielding a much more attack minded team than the one that lost in Uruguay in an attempt to make the most of their home advantage and get the “Greens'” campaign back on track.
The two teams last met in the Copa America last July, when Colombia won 2-0 thanks to a brace from Falcao.
Nine South American teams will be competing for four automatic World Cup qualifying spots, while the fifth placed team will face a two leg play-off against the fifth placed team from Asia for the right to play in Brazil in 2014.
Kick-off is scheduled to start at 2PM, Colombian time.