Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman insists he never doubted the abilities of defender Yerry Mina, who endured a testing start to his Barcelona career.
Having moved to Camp Nou from Palmeiras in January, Mina started just four LaLiga outings, of which Barca won only one.
That sequence included a remarkable 5-4 loss at Levante, which ended Barca’s hopes of going the entire domestic campaign unbeaten at the penultimate hurdle and also brought an end to their 43-match undefeated streak in the league.
Mina played no part in Colombia’s opening World Cup Group H defeat to Japan, but was restored to the starting line-up against Poland and repaid Pekerman’s faith by heading the first goal of a convincing 3-0 victory.
Colombia head into Thursday’s final group fixture against Senegal in Samara knowing a win will guarantee a place in the last 16, and Pekerman says Mina has responded well to a difficult first six months in Catalonia.
“In press conferences ahead of the World Cup I already received questions regarding him,” Pekerman said. “I have to say he’s coming out of a hard season with Barcelona, they came to an end of a winning streak.
“It looked easy but it was not because they had already won the Spanish league and there was pressure on them to continue that undefeated streak and he did not play well in that [Levante] match.
“He didn’t play at the usual level we have come to expect. I think he was affected by a poor match of the whole team, Barcelona were scored on several times by a team that usually doesn’t score so often.
“I’m sure that affected him and on top of that there are always other things on people’s minds because since he was a key player in Brazil, he chose Barcelona thinking the situation would be different.
“I’m sure it was a hard time for him and that’s how he reached us at the World Cup and we never doubted him or his talent. I do think he’s going to be one of the greatest central defenders in the world, he has enormous potential.
“Obviously he needs to feel the support of his club, his team-mates, he needs to adapt to Barcelona in an ongoing context and he’ll play at the level he played at with the national team in the last game. I’m completely convinced of this, Yerry will go on to do great things.”
Sitting alongside Pekerman in Wednesday’s media conference was Davinson Sanchez, who knows better than most what a decisive impact his Tottenham team-mate Harry Kane could have should Colombia and England meet in the second round.
“I think Harry has shown year after year that he’s a great team-mate and that he also sets important goals for himself and his team,” Sanchez said of a man who leads the race for the Golden Boot with five goals from two games.
“Right now he’s one of the reference points for our team but in the context of a World Cup we all know full well he can make the difference but there are other players that can have a great impact.
“We always try to focus on an entire team because one player can score goals and decide matches but a team that works as a unit is more dangerous than any single player.”