Can new Liverpool favourite Diaz provide Colombia with World Cup qualifying miracle?

Luis Diaz Colombia 2021
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The in-form forward is the Cafeteros' best chance to remain in the running for Qatar 2022 as they prepare for their final qualifier against Venezuela

It was the kind of goal that Netherlands and Bayern Munich legend Arjen Robben made his trademark, only on the other side of the pitch and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Effortlessly bringing down Juan Cuadrado's long-range pass on the left, Luis Diaz left his Bolivia marker standing as he cut inside and, with a savage flick of the right boot, sent the ball hurtling past Ruben Cordano to open the scoring for Colombia in Barranquilla.

The new Liverpool star thus set in motion a vital 3-0 victory for the Cafeteros, following up on his strike with an assist for Miguel Borja as they proved far too strong for their hapless opponents.

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But the question remains: will it prove too little, too late to send Diaz and Colombia to the World Cup?

With Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay already safely through for Qatar 2022, just one play-off spot remains in CONMEBOL qualifying heading into the final round of fixtures on Tuesday.

Three teams are still in the running, moreover: Peru, who saw their chances of automatic qualification vanish with Thursday's controversial defeat to Uruguay; Colombia, one point further back; and another point behind, Chile, fresh from a bruising 4-0 reverse at the hands of Brazil.

Colombia's brief is somewhat straightforward.

The Cafeteros must defeat Venezuela – ironically, coached by Jose Pekerman, the Argentine tactician who did so much for Colombia during his tenure – in their last match, and hope Peru cannot overcome already eliminated Paraguay in front of their own fans, or as a last resort at least better the Inca's result while hoping that Chile fail to snatch a win over Uruguay.

Success on Tuesday would mean a third straight World Cup for the nation; failure, the official end of a golden decade and a half which had as its protagonists stars like James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao and Cuadrado.

Now, with James only a shadow of his former self and Falcao still dogged by injury, they will look to Diaz to repeat his heroics and keep them in the running.

Luis Diaz Colombia GFX

His recent form certainly gives plenty of reason for encouragement.

If the 25-year-old forward felt any nerves about stepping up from Porto to Liverpool in January's blockbuster move, he has not shown it, instead wasting no time in making himself at home at Anfield.

Adapting to English football, often so difficult for South American stars, has looked easy for the player.

Perhaps, though, that does not come as much of a surprise given his previous incredible jump from playing amateur football in Colombia while suffering from a clinical case of malnutrition – a common issue in the nation's impoverished populations such as the Wayuu, from which Diaz hails – to the national team in the space of just two years.

Diaz has netted twice since moving to England and impressed with his explosive ability in the final third and knack for leaving his marker in the dust time and again.

One confirmed fan is Jurgen Klopp, who at times can barely contain his admiration for the new signing making a big impact.

Luis Diaz PS

"There is a reason why you sign a player. The reason is the quality that he has. The reason is the way that he is playing the game,” Klopp beamed in a recent interview with Sky Sports.

"With Luis, where it has been really special is that when we saw him we knew that he would fit in immediately.

"That is really difficult usually but because he did not have to change, that is why we have a really confident boy here.

“You don’t expect miracles immediately from these kind of players. But he is not far away from doing exactly that. Long may it continue.”

Diaz has already proved to be Colombia's hero once in his relatively short international career, scoring four goals in the 2021 Copa America – including strikes against both Brazil and Argentina, most notably a fantastic effort past Emiliano Martinez to take his nation to within a hair's breadth of the final.

After the Copa though, things started to go wrong for Colombia.

The nation managed just one win in 10 qualifiers to tumble down the standings – a dreadful run which included a goal drought of almost 600 minutes finally broken in style by their star.

Even Diaz's best efforts might not yet be enough to book the much-desired play-off, with such intense competition in the CONMEBOL qualifiers.

But if the Cafeteros do make that final leap and confirm their rejuvenation after 2021's shocking collapse, you can bet that their ace forward and new darling of the Kop will be in the thick of the action.

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