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The danger man

Saturday, July 05, 2014

FORTALEZA, Brazil - With his five goals, his bright yellow jersey and his boyish looks, James Rodriguez has attracted the attention of Brazil.

Precocious and virtuoso are just two of the words used to describe the 22-year-old playmaker ahead of Colombia's World Cup quarter-final match against host Brazil today.

Just 22, he is already Colombia's top scorer at a World Cup and is the leading scorer so far at the 2014 tournament.

But for those who have followed his football career, there has been no surprise. They knew that he was talented, had a winning mentality and could give Colombians something they have been awaiting for a long time.

He has been consolidating himself as the replacement of Carlos Valderrama, the leading figure of a national team that played in three World Cups in the 1990s.

Faustino Asprilla, an ex-Colombia player from that generation, said that Rodriguez "can be the best Colombian footballer in history".

His technical abilities have been exceptional and he has shown them off in Brazil. He scores with surprising ease. He has scored in each of Colombia's matches, and he has done it with both feet and his head.

In Colombia's 2-0 win over Uruguay, he controlled the ball with his chest and shot from outside the area to score one of the most stunning goals of the tournament.

"Football needs players of his characteristics for this spectacle," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. "For the moment, he's the best player at this World Cup."

Despite his age, Rodriguez is a veteran: eight years playing as a professional in Colombia, Argentina, Portugal and France.

In 2010, he moved to Porto, where he won three league titles and the Europa League before signing with Monaco, which paid 45 million euros ($A67.50 million) for his transfer last season.

In Portugal, aged just 19, he married Daniela Ospina, the sister of Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina. A devout Christian, Rodriguez goes to church, as do several other members of the Colombia squad. The faith seems to be a uniting element of the team, which usually gathers in a circle on the pitch and prays before matches.

On social media sites, Rodriguez refers to himself in profiles as a "son of God."

Usually shy and a man of few words, he got over a mild stuttering problem during his childhood. He is the son of an ex-footballer who left the family when Rodriguez was three. It was his step-father who took Rodriguez to a football school when he was five and where he usually played with boys who were advanced.

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