Colombia could be star turn of Brazil 2014
Published: 11.07.13 / Written by: David Gold
It was almost 20 years ago at the World Cup in the United States that Colombia went to the competition with hopes high that they could mount a serious challenge.
The South American nation had blitzed qualifying and even won 5-0 away to Argentina on their way there. That was a fantastic team with Freddy Rincon, Carlos Valderrama and Faustino Asprilla.
However the World Cup ended in tragedy. Out at the group stage, Andres Escobar was famously and tragically murdered when he returned home because of the own goal he scored during the tournament.
But that was a time when Colombia was affected by drug gangs wielding huge power across the country and the football team was intimidated by them. The country was barely functioning effectively – yet twenty years on and they are thriving, now moving forward. And again they have a fantastic team coming through who could just be the breakthrough stars of the World Cup.
Of course there is nothing unknown about Radamel Falcao, the star of this Colombia side. Having just moved to Monaco from Atletico Madrid, he is unlikely to be at the principality side long, and could well be at Real Madrid before the end of the campaign. Falcao’s goalscoring, hard working mentality and technique make him the perfect front man for this wonderful Colombian side.
Jackson Martinez is another foil up front who can play alongside or act as back up to Falcao. The Porto hitman is one of the most prolific forwards in Europe. Colombia have quality all over the pitch. In goal they have the experience of 42 year old Faryd Mondragon or the youthful talents of David Ospina to choose from. Another vastly experienced head, Mario Yepes, could be in Brazil for the World Cup, but more likely to start are Napoli duo Pablo Armero and Juan Camilo Zuniga. Eder Alvarez Balanta is a young talent coming through at River Plate, there is always the experienced Cristian Zapata at AC Milan and another commanding figure, Aquivaldo Mosquera.
Midfield too is heavily sprinkled with talent. James Rodriguez has gone with Falcao to Monaco, and you wonder whether these two players being in Ligue 1 with a team not playing in Europe means they will be very well rested and prepared for the World Cup. The understanding between the two, good already, will grow further and they could be a devastating pair going forward at Brazil.
Inter Milan’s Fredy Guarin is a powerful and technical figure in the middle, Juan Cuadrado and Macnelly Torres provide guile and then there is one of the next great talents. Juan Fernando Quintero. The Pescara man is set to move on to a bigger club this summer but he is sending signs every time he plays that he is going to be a star. A wonderfully gifted left footed playmaker, he scored five goals in the under 20 South American championships and set up four more for Colombia. Quintero has just been at the under 20 World Cup that Colombia have been knocked out of, but again his quality was clear. Trailing in their knockout round tie to South Korea in the last minute of the game, he stepped up and curled a perfect free kick into the net to take the game to extra time. That is the kind of player Quintero is – with a big game mentality and the technical quality to make it count.
With players like these, and none who will be involved in the Champions League at a particularly late stage in all probability, this is likely to be one of the freshest teams at next year’s World Cup. With Brazil hosting, South American sides should have the advantage in territory that is unfamiliar to Europeans. Colombia may well be placed perfectly to make their mark.