Los Cafeteros last World Cup in Brazil was all about James Rodríguez. The electric attacking midfielder encountered a break-out tournament that saw him win the Golden Boot, lead his team to the quarter-finals, and ultimately earn a move to Real Madrid on the club scene. However heading to Russia this summer, their success might be due to two young men at the heart of Colombia’s defence.
The attack will still run through Rodríguez and colleagues in Juan Cuadrado and Radamel Falcao. Colombia, however, has done in excellent job in seeing the development of their young center backs. Although not as experienced in international play as their partners in defense, Yerry Mina and Davinson Sánchez have done nothing but turn heads for their clubs.
Mina started his youth career as a goalkeeper, following in the footsteps of the men in his family. After noticing his own strength, he changed his position to the center of the defence. This has transformed him into one of the most promising youngsters in the position. The defender made a name for himself early in Colombia with Santa Fe. After leading his team to a victorious Copa Sudamericana campaign, he earned a transfer to Brazilian powerhouse Palmeiras. His form continued, as he lead the Verdão to the Brasileirao trophy.
He became a hot commodity in Europe. On January 11, 2018, Mina sealed a move to FC Barcelona. As the first Colombian to debut for Barcelona, Mina has a point to prove. Although only appearing in three matches to date, one must be of a certain quality to feature for the historic Spanish club.
Mina stands at 1.95 meters, making him a force in the air. He’s also very reliable with the ball on his feet, completing 87.8 percent of his passes this season. His tackling and ability to intercept passes add to his multi-faceted defensive game. This can be seen through his averages of 1.8 interceptions and 5.1 clearances per game. Mina’s brute strength sees him commit many fouls, but he has time to learn with his new teammates.
Besides being an excellent player, Mina is known as a wonderful teammate. He currently heads the Yerry Mina Foundation, a charity that aims to help over 2,000 people in Guachené, Colombia.
Sánchez started his professional year with Atlético Nacional in Colombia. After an impressive season he transferred to Ajax in the Dutch Eredivisie. Ajax has an incredible reputation for developing young talent, and they maintained this with Sánchez. The Colombian led de Godenzonen to a second place finish in the Eredivise and the Europa League final. His terrific campaign earned him the honors of being named Ajax’s best player of the season.
He made another move in the summer of 2017. Tottenham paid an astonishing 42 million Euros for his services, a record high fee for the club. Sánchez was also on Barcelona’s radar, but turned them down for the north London club.
Sánchez has become a mainstay in a defence that features stars Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. He has already amassed 30 appearances in both England and the UEFA Champions League. Like Mina, Sánchez is known for his strength and passing ability. He has completed 88.3 percent of his passes this season. On the defensive side, he has averaged 1.3 tackles and 4.3 clearances per game. Capable of playing in both a three man back line, or a pair, Sánchez offers both Tottenham and Colombia defensive flexibility.
The Last Word
Colombia is a favorite to qualify out of their balanced group, but nothing comes easy in international play. A tenacious defence pairing may prove to be the x-factor for Colombia this summer. Having previously relied on the old head of Mario Yepes and the uninspiring Cristian Zapata, Sanchez and Mina could be difference makers for Los Cafeteros. James and company will have to do the business up front, but with an improving young core, Colombia could be a real dark horse for Russia 2018.
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