This international break will provide Colombia head coach José Nestor Pékerman a new opportunity to assess his squad in preparation for the World Cup in June. The friendly matches against France and Australia sees the inclusion of two national team debutants and a handful of players with minimal international experience. We assess the chances of three players that will be hoping to shine in these friendlies in order to secure a place amongst the 23-man World Cup squad heading to Russia.
The uncapped centre-back will be hoping to make his debut against France or Australia. The Cali native has justified his selection by putting in some impressive performances in Spain’s La Liga with newly promoted Girona FC. Espinosa has featured for Girona in 27 of the 29 league games played this season and made a vital contribution towards ten clean sheets and a current run of six home wins in a row. Despite the 28-year-old’s excellent displays in the league, the competition for the centre back position in the Colombia squad may prove to be a hurdle in his international ambitions. Espinosa can expect to be at least fifth choice behind Pékerman’s preferred centre backs of Dávinson Sánchez, Cristian Zapata, Óscar Murillo and Yerry Mina. Espinosa will hope to make his Colombia debut this week against France or Australia to showcase his defensive talents on the international stage which may just give Pékerman a headache when he decides on his final squad in May.
The pacey Pereira-born winger became Premier League newcomers Brighton and Hove Albion’s then-record signing for GDP£13.5 million in August 2017, moving from Belgian side Club Brugge. The former Once Caldas man has gained a reputation for his energetic attacking style and his recent performances for Brighton justify his selection for the national squad. Izquierdo already has two appearances and a goal for Los Cafeteros but has not featured since June 2017 while settling in at the Premier League. The inverted left winger needs to find a place in Pékerman’s side, as he is the only specialist in this position, yet the tests against France and Australia will provide the 25-year-old with more than enough of an opportunity to make a good impression and secure a seat on the plane to Russia.
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One of four Colombia-based players selected by Pékerman, the 24-year-old has put in some assured performances in midfield for Junior since joining in 2017. Cantillo will be hopeful of making his debut against France or Australia. The defensive midfielder has made a name for himself in the Colombian league for his calm style of play, reading the game very well and with almost unmatched ball distribution. The place on the midfield next to Carlos ‘La Roca’ Sánchez seems up for grabs, but with Abel Aguilar, Wilmar Barrios and Mateus Uribe all contesting that position, Cantillo will need to impress Pékerman this international break.