James Rodriguez - Colombia - November 12, 2015
REUTERS/Rodrigo Garrido

Colombia: Copa America Centenario Team Guide

Perhaps South America's most inconsistent side, Colombia are often capable of achieving great things one day and then falling flat on their faces the next. Case in point: They began last year's Copa America by losing to Venezuela and then posting a shutout win over Brazil. Their talent is typically top-notch, making it hard to understand how they've only managed two finals appearances at major tournaments.

3 Stars

  • James Rodriguez (Real Madrid/Spain) – While supremely talented, the production of Colombia's star man can ebb and flow. After scoring in all five of his World Cup 2014 matches, Rodriguez supplied nothing on the scoresheet at last year's Copa America. These droughts come as a surprise, considering his high-level free kick, set-up and shooting abilities.
  • Jeison Murillo (Inter Milan/Italy) – The young defender is supremely confident with the ball at his feet, in both the dribble and the pass. He flew under the radar until winning the Young Player Award and earning a spot on the all-tourney team at last year's Copa America, when Colombia conceded just once in four games.
  • Carlos Bacca (AC Milan/Italy) – Like many strikers, Bacca can be very streaky. He's also never scored at a big tournament for Colombia before. That all said, he is very dangerous when his runs are clicking. He loves the ball at his feet, so he is not shy on the dribble and shoots at will.

Manager

Jose Pekerman – His playing career as a decent midfielder ended due to a serious knee injury at the age of 28. Pekerman then spent a dozen years as a youth coach at the club level before taking the managerial post with Argentina's Under-20 national team. There, he won three U-20 World Cups while mentoring the likes of Pablo Aimar, Esteban Cambiasso, Maxi Rodriguez, Javier Saviola and FC Dallas attacker Mauro Rosales.

Pekerman then took the Argentina senior side job in 2004, but was let go after a heartbreaking World Cup quarterfinal exit at the hands of Klinsmann's home-standing Germany side two years later. After a couple of short club stints in Mexico, Pekerman was named as Colombia boss in 2012. He successfully led the country to its first World Cup in 16 years, then saw his team go perfect through the 2014 group stage before notching a Round-of-16 victory over Uruguay and falling to hosts Brazil in the quarters. At the 2015 Copa America, they fell on penalties at the same quarterfinal hurdle to eventual runners-up Argentina.

Copa America Group A Schedule

June 3 vs. United States (9:30 pm ET, Levi's Stadium – Santa Clara, Ca.)
June 7 vs. Paraguay (10:30 pm ET, Rose Bowl – Pasadena, Ca.)
June 13 vs. Costa Rica (9 pm ET, NRG Stadium – Houston, Tex.)
Full schedule

Copa America Squad

Goalkeepers (3): Cristian Bonilla, David Ospina, Robinson Zapata
Defenders (8): Felipe Aguilar, Santiago Arias, Farid Diaz, Frank Fabra, Stefan Medina, Jeison Murillo, Yerry Mina, Cristian Zapata
Midfielders (8): Edwin Cardona, Guillermo Celis, Juan Cuadrado, Sebastian Perez, Andres Roa, James Rodriguez, Carlos Sanchez, Daniel Torres
Forwards (4): Carlos Bacca, Roger Martinez, Marlos Moreno, Dayro Moreno

Starting XI (4-5-1)

  • GK: David Ospina (Arsenal)
  • RB: Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven)
  • CB: Cristian Zapata (AC Milan)
  • CB: Jeison Murillo (Inter Milan)
  • LB: Farid Diaz (Atletico Nacional)
  • RW: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus)
  • DM: Sebastian Perez (Atletico Nacional)
  • DM: Daniel Torres (Independiente Medellin)
  • AM: James Rodriguez (Real Madrid)
  • LW: Edwin Cardona (Monterrey)
  • FW: Carlos Bacca (AC Milan)

Style of play

Pekerman isn't afraid to switch formations on a game-by-game basis and prefers selecting players with the right character and fit over simply choosing the so-called best. He aims to mold a team to his personal approach, which typically involves tough defensive stands followed by the defensive midfielders springing attacks from deep positions. He also likes his fullbacks to get forward often for crosses, making his style a complex blend that matches the country's famous coffees.

How they qualified

Automatically qualified as one of 10 South American nations.

Copa America history

Colombia won their first title as the 2001 hosts. Their only other final appearance occurred 41 years ago. However, Los Cafeteros have only failed to reach the knockout stage once since 1989 and they haven't gone winless since 1963, when the tournament was known as the South American Championship.

Memorable moments

Led by defensive stars Ivan Cordoba and Mario Yepes, host nation Colombia won its first (and, to date, only) Copa America crown without conceding a single goal. Their impressive 2014 run to the elite eight stands as their deepest World Cup involvement in five tries.

United States vs Costa Rica

Matches US Wins US Losses Draws
Overall 3 11 3
Official Competitions 2 5 2
Friendlies 1 6 1

MLS Connections

Among the 13 current league players out of Colombia are FC Dallas top gun Fabian Castillo, and a pair of reigning MLS Cup champs in Portland's Diego Chara and Dairon Asprilla. A total of 62 Colombians have suited up over the course of MLS history, including two league MVP's (Carlos Valderrama and David Ferreira), a Defender of the Year (Jámison Olave) and three Best XI strikers (Juan Pablo Angel, Eduardo Hurtado and Diego Serna). Valderrama is also the highest ranking foreigner on the all-time assists chart, standing fourth with 114 helpers.

To boot, the league has featured three Colombian managers: Wilmer Cabrera, current Mexico boss Juan Carlos Osorio and FC Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja.

Team Guides