Colombia

Population: 47 Million

Area: 1,141,748 sq km

Capital: Bogota

Currency: Colombian Peso

Federation: Colombian Football Federation founded in 1924, affiliated to FIFA in 1936

Registered players: 291,229

Kit colours: Yellow jersey, blue shortsq and white socks

Team nickname: Los Cafeteros

World Cup record: Second round (1990), First round (1962, 1994, 1998)

Copa America: Winner (2001), finalist (1975), 3rd (1987, 1993, 1995), 4th (1991, 2004), quarter-finals (1997, 1999, 2011)

How they qualified for FIFA World Cup 2014: Came second in the South Amzerican qualifiers with 30 points behind Argentina on 32, ahead of Chile 28, Ecuador 25 and Uruguay 25, with 9 wins, 3 draws and 4 defeats, 27 goals for and 13 against.

Top clubs:  Millionarios, Atletico Nacional, America Cali and Deportivo Cali

Goalking Radamel Falcao’s Colombia were the revelation of the South American qualifiers, but the striker himself will watch the finals from the stands after losing his race to get over a knee injury.

The nation however make a welcome return to the World Cup fold at Brazil 2014 for the first time since France 1998.

Colombia have been drawn in Group C with dark horses Greece, African giants Ivory Coast and the Blue Samurai of Japan.

Their qualifying campaign started in a sluggish manner, which cost coach Leonel Alvarez his job as Jose Pekerman, the first foreigner to take the job in 20 years, stepped into the hot seat in January 2012.

The Argentine coach then made the Cafeteros, as Colombia are known, a formidable home force with their powerful forward line backed up by a similarly mean defence.

Pekerman managed, despite Latin football’s ups and downs, to keep Colombia focused on the task of qualification and rack up the necessary points to come second in the group, two points behind winners Argentina.

In Falcao, nicknamed the Tiger, Colombia had the added menace of a great striker. He scored nine of their 27 goals in qualifying and has been terrifyingly impressive for his club sides Porto, Atletico Madrid and AS Monaco. He will however miss the World Cup after failing to recover from surgery on ruptured cruciate ligaments.

Nevertheless, his back up is impressive, with Teofilo Gutierrez of River Plate racking up six goals and Jackson Martinez of Porto and Carlos Bacca of Seville giving Pekerman a rounded set of options up front.

Colombia’s playmaker, the 22-year-old James Rodriguez, is just starting to reveal his full set of skills, while Juan Cuadrado also impressed in midfield during the campaign to ensure his side’s tickets for Brazil.

Colombia only let in 13 goals in their 16 qualifying games thanks partly to their young Nice ‘keeper David Ospina (25), but also to their Italian based defenders Mario Yepes of Bergamo, despite his 38-years, and the Napoli duo Pablo Armero and Juan Zuniga.

In fact most of the Colombia squad are playing their club football in either France or Italy and honing their technical skills on the Old Continent.

There are hopes of a run to the second round in Brazil to emulate the Italia 90 effort, but bookmakers are even more optimistic than that, rating them as sixth favourites to win the competition.

Back in 1986 Colombia backed out of organizing a World Cup due to internal security problems. The country is ranked second most violent (behind South Africa) in the world but a good campaign here will help their proposed bid for 2026.

AFP

Related Articles

Read More Related...