SAMARA, Russia (Reuters) - Colombia’s James Rodriquez, the star of the World Cup in Brazil four years ago, is once again looking to showcase his skills at the showpiece event and remind the world of his talent.
The 26-year-old, whose indifferent club performances have seen him meander out of the sport’s spotlight, looks to have hit form at just the right time once more for his country.
After starting on the bench when not fully fit in the 2-1 defeat by Japan, he was at his best in the 3-0 win over Poland.
With victory required in Colombia’s final Group H game against Senegal in Samara on Thursday to guarantee a place in the knockout rounds, the South Americans are again pinning their hopes on the playmaker to steer them into the last 16.
In a team with other quality attacking players, including Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado, it is still Rodriquez who makes them tick and Los Cafeteros were noticeably more threatening with him in full flow against Poland.
Rodriquez’s scintillating form in Brazil four years ago took Colombia to the quarter-finals, secured him the Golden Boot and paved the way for a 71.5 million euros ($82.97 million) move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.
However, after three years in the Spanish capital, where Rodriquez failed to match the impact of Gareth Bale or Cristiano Ronaldo, he was sent out on loan to Bayern Munich, seemingly unwanted by Real.
At Bayern, where he is on loan for two seasons, Rodriquez struggled with form and fitness initially but under coach Jupp Heynckes he has flourished into a key member of the side that secured their sixth consecutive Bundesliga title.
He now seems poised to make his mark once again on football’s biggest stage.
His pass for Cuadrado to score Colombia’s third goal against Poland was arguably the assist of the tournament.
Rodriquez is something of a World Cup specialist, having scored six goals and claimed four assists in seven games at finals, and will aim to add to that tally against the Africans.
If he does deliver to take Colombia through to the second round, the golden boy of four years ago may feel he has the world at his feet once again.
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Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Ken Ferris