IF LIVERPOOL striker Luis Suarez has been the World Cup’s villain, then James Rodriguez, the dazzling Colombia No10 named after James Bond and partial to a Thunderball, is surely the hero.
His two goals, including a majestic volley, sank a Suarez-less Uruguay on Saturday and cemented the graceful Monaco playmaker as the tournament’s revelation.
The concern for home fans in Brazil, however, is that James – he goes by his first name, pronounced “Ham-ez” – could tear up a script that sees the hosts lift the trophy.
Brazil’s golden boy Neymar has largely lived up his billing, yet Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team still needed a penalty shoot-out to squeeze past Chile in the second round.
James’s series of increasingly influential performances prompted Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez to draw parallels with Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, but Neymar is perhaps the best comparison.
On Friday in Fortaleza the two trequartistas, born five months apart in 1991, will collide in the quarter-finals – with one certain to be eliminated.
Scolari is hopeful that Neymar will shake off a minor injury and resume an attempt to shimmy his way to a peculiarly individual World Cup triumph.
The five-time winners started the tournament as favourites to be crowned in Rio on 13 July, and will be expected to topple a Colombia side making their last-eight debut.
But James – aided by his brother-in-law, goalkeeper David Ospina, and nimble Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado – looks capable of ensuring their box office run has a few more episodes yet.