It’s #4 vs #5. Colombia vs Belgium. Yea, it’s a friendly. And yea, those are FIFA rankings. But today, they both mean a lot.
After a 16-year hiatus, Colombia is headed back to the World Cup. As a top seed, no less. Hopes are so high here in Bogotá. A new era. An exciting team. They have to advance out of the group stages, right?
After today's match in Brussels (and next Tuesday's in Holland), we’ll have a better idea of what Colombia is really capable of.
Now, Colombia are good. They’ve got a potent attack. Falcao + Fredy Guarín + James Rodríguez = Peligroso. Their defense? Solid, only allowing 13 goals in CONMEBOL qualifying.
But Colombia are not the 4th best team in the world. Far from it.
Despite an impressive 20-9-8 record since the last World Cup, inconsistency, costly defensive lapses and poor organization pocked Colombia's qualifying campaign. What’s more is the strength of their opponents.
Of those 37 matches, just two of their nine non-CONMEBOL fixtures have been against European sides. Results: A 1-0 loss to Spain in 2011, and a 1-0 win over Serbia this June.
Are Belgium, Colombia’s European counterpart as a ‘fashionable’ team next summer, more deserving of their ranking? They certainly have a better argument.
Since Euro 2012, against teams in the current FIFA Top 30, Belgium are 7-4-1, with two wins over Serbia & Romania, victories over Holland (4-2), the U.S. and Croatia, as well as two draws with France. Their only loss came against England. Yes, a tougher schedule, but also more consistent with more impressive results.
Colombia on the other hand are 5-4-3 vs the FIFA Top 30, with wins over Chile, Mexico, Uruguay, and Serbia, ties with Brazil and Argentina, but embarrassing losses to Ecuador and Uruguay.
Today’s friendly is a chic showdown between “top teams”. But it should offer a candid look behind the shiny robes of FIFA’s ranking process.
Kickoff: 3pm EST