Maybe the greatest surprise of the day was not Japan beating Colombia (which was the first time they beat a South American team in the World Cup), but the absence of star man James Rodriguez in the initial XI of the Cafeteros.
With Juan Quintero playing James’s functions, we expected a Colombian team working the ball, valuing possession and being less vertical on offensives transitions as usual.
But the red card to Sanchez at the beginning of the match pushed Quintero to play as a “regista”, close to the defensive line and making long ball passes to connect with the attack.
We can see this in his first half heatmap and pass map from OPTA. Quintero was making correct connections with the right side, where Juventus forward Cuadrado moves and allows good passing lines. There was not the same accuracy on the left side, with Izquierdo.
At the end of the first half, Quintero had been the most influential player in the match, with 1503 points on Twelve scale. Not only because of his set piece goal, but also for his offensive production and chances created.
If your creative midfielder is the key player in the match, you can’t take him off. Even if you want to put on your greatest star, who was patiently waiting on the bench. For sure Pekermann doesn’t use Twelve as an analysis tool, because if he does, he will not put James on for Quintero.
This is even more clear if we look at the off ball moves of both. Quintero worked hard to close the pass lines of Japanese’s midfield, making good pressure when his team were in defensive transition. They were very important movements to prevent counter attacks from Japan.
James Rodriguez is not well known for his defensive skills, but he was very lazy here. Colombia needed some extra hot blood to recover balls, close pass lines and apply extra pressure over the ball carrier.
Off the ball, he was almost non-existent, with only two pressures actions. But if we take a look at his defensive moves in ball action, it’s worse. None. Nadita de nada. Very poor work for one of the most famous players in the world.
How could Colombia turn the scoreboard with their midfield star doing so poorly on creating chances and shooting? And offering a blank defensively?
There is no magic in football, even if it’s a sport played by magicians doing beautiful fantasias. You must take your chances, supported by good ideas and hard work. And the numbers can help you more than you can imagine.
Clearly it was not a good choice to change Quintero for James. River Plate’s midfielder finished the match with 1723 points in 58 minutes and the Bayern player with a ridiculous 123 points in 37 minutes. Besides that, in the 73rd minute Japan scored their first corner goal in World Cup history, getting ahead in the match once again.
Of course the Japanese team are full of merits. Their match strategy was very efficient and well played. But we also know that the Colombians were able to be more competitive and dangerous than they were.
At the end, the total production of Quintero was far more important and influential than James’s work. Sometimes, you’d better keep your best player on the field. Or at least, consult your Twelve App to be sure.