The return to fitness of James Rodriguez makes Colombia a different team, head coach Jose Pekerman believes.
The Real Madrid midfielder, 24, made his return from a thigh problem by scoring as a substitute in his club’s 3-2 defeat to Sevilla on Sunday.
A lengthy injury absence had also seen him miss Colombia’s first two World Cup qualifiers – which garnered three points – but he is back in time for a crucial double-header against Chile and Argentina.
Pekerman said: “James is extraordinary. With him, the team is something else.
“He is in great shape. He suffered because he could not play in the first two qualifying matches and is preparing in the best way to face Chile and Argentina.
“I admire him. I am delighted to count on one of the best players in the world. With James in good condition, we are able to have many variations.”
Pekerman looked ahead to the match against Copa America winners Chile on Thursday and acknowledged it was set to be a tough test against “by far the best team” in South America.
“We must counter the dynamism of Chile with tactical discipline,” he said.
“I know it will be very difficult, but we will try to make space and always have the mentality that we are going to score goals. We always prepare for matches looking to face the opponent with our best.
“In the last qualification campaign we played excellent matches against Chile. The 3-3 was beautiful from a tactical viewpoint – they beat us in the first half and we beat them in the second.
“The games against Chile are very attractive. We are talking about the best team, by far, on the continent who are also among the best in the world.”
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