Colombia boss: James 'quality' was never in doubt

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Colombia manager Nestor Lorenzo said he’s always believed in James Rodríguez’s quality, even as he struggled for minutes at club level.

Rodríguez has been one of the best players in the 2024 Copa América, scoring one goal and adding five assists to lead the Cafeteros into the semifinals, where they will face Uruguay on Wednesday.

That production stands in contrast to what he has been producing at club level with Brazilian side Sao Paulo, where he has played in just two of Sao Paulo’s 14 league games in 2024, without registering a goal.

Lorenzo made it clear that as delighted as he’s been with Rodríguez’s play, he wants to see him log more minutes with his club.

“[Rodríguez] is engaged, committed and the possibility of adding minutes for a great player, that means he’s going to have an opportunity to show everything he knows,” Lorenzo said at Tuesday’s press conference via a translator. “If he plays fewer minutes, he’s going to have fewer chances. I believe that every time, every club he’s been to.

“Because just imagine that I’ve been following him since I took over. In Qatar, Greece, Brazil, every time he’s played, he has shown the quality he’s had, but he’s played little and we need him to play more and that’s why he needs to add more minutes.”

Colombia is riding a 27-match unbeaten streak into the game, but Lorenzo said his message is to continue to take things game by game: “The streak is not something that I mentioned, ever. [Wednesday] is our most important match.”

Lorenzo was asked if he’s concerned about Uruguay’s physical play, which saw it commit 26 fouls and suffer a red card to Nahitan Nández in the quarterfinal match against Brazil — a shootout win for La Celeste.

“No, I’m not concerned because of that. I believe that neutralizing fouls, it’s not part of my job, because it is the referee that needs to control it,” he said. “There are fouls and fouls. When the fouls start being tactical and stopping the game, the referee needs to intervene. I’m not concerned about that.

“I know how football is played in South America and we are ready for anything. But, if push comes to shove, it’s up to the referee to take measures. I cannot do anything.”

Uruguay counterpart Marcelo Bielsa confirmed that defender Ronald Araújo will miss the match due to a muscle injury to his leg he picked up in the Brazil match, which when combined with Nandez’s suspension leaves him short two defenders.

As for the Brazil game, he said it was a match in which the two sides “neutralized each other beyond their intentions.” But he said that Uruguay will continue to try and play its game, which often consists of pressing high and man-marking all over the field.

“There’s no plan B, there’s only plan A and you need to execute as good as you can,” he said with the help of a translator. “And planning is not to attack [while] ignoring that you might need to defend or defend [while] ignoring that you also need to attack.

“We need a compact team that plans to attack because it’s better, because that means dominating the game. But if you can do it, you also need to be able to defend.”

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