World Cup 2014: Colombia national soccer team guide
After a 15-year hiatus that surely seemed a lot longer, Colombia are back in international soccer’s most prestigious competition. The Cafeteros are making their way back to a World Cup for the first time since 1998 and do so with a squad that is rich with dynamic attacking talent and could serve as a tournament dark horse.
WHO GOT THEM THERE
Radamel Falcao, F, AS Monaco: As prolific a goalscorer as there is in the world right now, Falcao will spearhead Colombia’s attack. The lethal finisher netted nine times in qualifying, and will be tasked with the scoring burden against teams who will primarily be aiming to shut him down.
James Rodríguez, M, AS Monaco: Rodriguez may still be young at the tender age of 22, but he looked anything but that during recent games. The midfielder showcased his good technical skills and creativity in qualifying, assets that make him a dangerous weapon in Colombia’s dynamic attack.
Mario Yepes, D, Atalanta: Despite turning 38 in January, Yepes is impressively still going strong. The Cafeteros captain anchored the backline that proved difficult to beat in qualifying, using his leadership, wealth of experience and solid defending skills to stymie opponents.
José Pekerman, hired as head coach of Colombia in January 2012, has worked his magic and guided the Cafeteros to their first World Cup in more than a decade. Making his job even more impressive is the fashion in which Colombia qualified, as the team looked strong defensively and dynamic and explosive in the attack.
Another plus for Pekerman, a 64-year-old Argentine who was a midfielder in his playing days, is that he has previous World Cup experience as a coach. He was at the helm of Argentina in 2006 when the albiceleste reached the quarterfinals, and since then has managed Mexican clubs Toluca and Tigres UANL.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
WCQ record: 9-4-3, 30 pts. / 27 GF, 13 GA (second place in South America)
Colombia fell just short of finishing atop the CONMEBOL standings, two points shy of Argentina. But the Cafeteros had the stingiest defense in South American qualifying, allowing just 13 goals, and that combined with their explosive offense allowed for rather smooth (and impressive) sailing to Brazil.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
The Colombians are making their much-awaited return to the World Cup after last participating in France 1998. There is a real buzz around this team back home, primarily because of the exciting and dynamic brand of soccer the team plays under Pekerman.
Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama spent the final few years of his career in MLS, playing for the Colorado Rapids and now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion from 1996-2002. … Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja was born in Medellín, Colombia, and spent part of his playing career in his native land before finishing it out in MLS, and earned 11 caps for the Cafeteros. … Rapids midfielder Jaime Castrillón has played for Colombia’s national team 29 times. … US national team forward Juan Agudelo was born in Manizales, and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya is of Colombian descent. … Center back Carlos Valdés is currently on loan at Sante Fe from the Philadelphia Union, who also employed Faryd Mondragón in 2011. … There are several quality players who are from Colombia that currently play in MLS, including New York Red Bulls center back Jámison Olave, FC Dallas' Fabian Castillo and ex-FCD teammate David Ferreira and Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara.