James Rodriguez

Jugador Copa Mundial FIFA Brasil 2014

James Rodriguez 4
Colombia are at a World Cup after a 16 year absence. As a youngster, how aware of the significance of this are you?

I am as aware as any Colombian. I was just a young boy, seven or so, when the Tricolor were last at the World Cup and I still remember how excited I was watching USA 1994 on the television. I remember David Beckham scoring against Farid Mondragon. It was huge for the country, but of course it did not end well, even though the team played good football, and the team came home early. That hurt us all and we are determined to put it right. Some of the senior players in the squad, like Abel Aguilar, tell me how long they have waited, and how long they've fought, to get Colombia back where they belong.

You must be proud to be part of a new generation of Colombians who are putting your country on the map again…

Absolutely right, it is very important to us. We battle hard to show that Colombia's name deserves to be right up there alongside Brazil and Argentina. We are very keen to show the world how we can play this summer.

What are the strengths of this particular Colombia side, compared to some of the past vintages?

We have a nice blend of youth and experience. Our coach has got us all playing and fighting for each other, and for Colombia. We play the Colombian way and keep the ball. That's something I've been taught since I was very young. But we are a solid unit defensively, and then there are players like myself who will try something a bit different – try to beat a man and change it up. We can play a number of different ways and can hit people with quick moves – that's hard to defend against.

How crucial is it to get Falcao fit?

We are all praying for El Tigre to recover. He is one of the best forwards in the world. But we also have a lot of other options, we are not a one man team. There is so much talent in the squad that we can go far into the tournament, even if El Tigre doesn't make it. But it will be easier if he does!

Many people are calling you the best young midfielder in the world. How does it feel to draw such compliments?

It is nice to hear others say that they think I am doing well, especially when it comes from coaches and players that I respect. I use it as a positive, you must take praise in that way, but I don't let it give me a big head. That's where you think you have made it, and suddenly things will go wrong for you. I have been happy with my form, but I just need to keep working hard every single day, and listening to the advice of those people who know the game so much better than I do.

They are calling you 'El Nuevo Pibe' – the new kid, after Carlos Valderrama, who was El Pibe...

That's about as high a compliment as you can get for a Colombian footballer, but for me it is far too soon. Carlos was one of the greatest Colombian footballers who has ever drawn breath. I loved sitting watching him play for us as a kid – every Colombian kid did. If they are comparing me to him at the end of my career, that's when I will be extremely happy.

Valderrama actually says that you have got the talent set to become Colombia's greatest ever player…

I don't really want to talk like that. I've said how much I respect El Pibe, because he is our football legend. He was my hero as a boy and I wear the No.10 shirt he wore very, very proudly. To have him saying nice things about me is wonderful. He has done a lot for our country and is a very good guy. But I have not proved myself at international level yet. If I can do that this summer and put a smile on his face, along with all other Colombians, I will be very happy indeed.

You've had a great season at Monaco…

Yes, I've really enjoyed it, and I think I have learned a lot and made good progress. They are a great club to play for and French football is getting stronger all the time, it is a good league to be in.

Might you be tempted to join a big club in Spain, Italy, Germany or England if you have a great World Cup?

I've said in the past that I'd like to play in Spain one day, because it is a league that is good technically, and where you get a lot of touches on the ball, which is my style. The Premier League is maybe a bit physical at this stage. But I am a Monaco player and I'm not thinking about anything like that at the moment. I am now just concentrating on Brazil, which is going to be a wonderful experience for us.

You have an impressive all round game – what do you put that down to?

It is due to hard work. I was born with some pace and power, but I have worked very hard on it, to get my control right, to hit the ball hard, to shoot well, to pass well. It is a quest to try to improve every element of my game, every day.

Will it be a bonus to be playing on your home continent?

Yes, I think so. A lot of the teams from around the world might feel a little bit intimidated coming to Brazil to play football, but we Colombians do that all the time. We are used to being in Brazil, to playing Brazil. We know the cities, the stadiums, the conditions. And a lot of fans will be coming over to see us, I hope. We can turn Brazil into a little Colombia every time we play.

What makes this side have a chance in Brazil?

We don't concede too many goals, and we have one of the best groups of players the country has had over the last decade. We are united, and our coach is very clever and knows how to get the best out of us, and outwit opponents. We have a great goalkeeper and we can score lots of goals. There is no reason why we can't have a go at winning it.

What do you think to your group. A lot of pundits seem to think you are certainties to reach the round of 16.

It was a good draw maybe, compared to some others we could have been handed. People call us favourites, but that is dangerous. Greece can surprise teams, they have done that in the past. Ivory Coast have some of the strongest players around, who play in the top leagues of Europe. And Japan have got their best ever side, I think. It is quite an even group, and as much as I am optimistic about us getting out of it, we will have to work very hard. But that's good. If you're going to do well at a World Cup you need to beat the best teams.

You have nearly two million Twitter followers – are you going to try to get another couple of million during the tournament?

It is fantastic to have so many followers, and I really enjoy chatting to them and interacting with them whenever I can. I like going online, it is relaxing away from football. So yes – I would like to get some more followers for @jamesdrodriguez. Another million might be ambitious, but if we go all the way to the final, who knows. I will be tweeting from Brazil, for sure.