Pekerman: Brazil a step up
Mario Yepes, James Rodriguez (AP)
Fortaleza - Colombia coach Jose Pekerman believes his side's stunning form will count for little as they face hosts Brazil in their first ever World Cup quarter-final in Fortaleza on Friday.
Los Cafeteros are the competition's second highest scorers having won all four of their games to date, but Pekerman expects to encounter a very different test when they take on the five-time winners in front of their home crowd.
"For Colombia every game is a new challenge and a step up," said the Argentine on Thursday.
"Both Brazil and us cannot think about what has gone before.
"We need to play our own game as we have done up to now and try to impose our play on them. The key is not to believe there is a favourite."
Until now Colombia have also been able to count on a sizeable travelling support in their four games in Brazil and Pekerman acknowledged that they will have to try and quieten the crowd early on.
"It will be a new situation and we need to do survive it. It is normal and should without doubt be an important aspect in Brazil's favour to have their people behind them.
"We hope to get into the game quickly and do what we have done until now which is to develop our game on the field."
Colombia have been lauded as one of the most entertaining sides on show in Brazil, but they have also only conceded twice in four games and Pekerman is keen to maintain that balance between attack and defence.
"We have been a balanced team and on Friday we need to maintain the same spirit, the same way of playing as we have shown we can score goals and also defend well."
The match has been billed as a clash between the two poster boy number 10's - Neymar and James Rodriguez.
Neymar has coped with the pressure of burdening the expectations of 200 million Brazilians exceptionally well as he has scored four goals in as many games and also netted his side's crucial final penalty against Chile.
However, even the Barcelona man has been outshone by Colombia's James, who leads the scoring charts with five and has also provided two assists.
"In both sides there are great players," admitted Pekerman.
"That will hopefully make for a very interesting and well-balanced match."
Defender Juan Camilo Zuniga added that the players felt a huge responsibility having reached last eight for the first time, but would still try to enjoy the experience.
"We know that it is going to be difficult. This class of game is the type you always learn from. It a great opportunity for us against a great opponent," said the Napoli defender.
"We have a huge responsibility and we will do our best."
Brazil face the in-form Colombians for a place in the semi-finals tonight. The match kicks off at 22:00 SA time.
Follow Sport24's LIVE and interactive match commentary for this South American derby.