Colombia – World Cup Preview | Group H

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Sebastian Szlenkier (Sub-Packages)
Sebastian, 24 from London. Only live for three things: sports, politics and music. Big fan of Boston Celtics, Buffalo Bills and Manchester United.

Colombia qualified from one of the most competitive World Cup qualification groups. As Colombia had to play against countries such as Argentina and Brazil, there are many strong countries in this qualification group. Coming 4th in their qualification group, the team qualified only one point ahead of 5th placed Peru and 6th placed Chile. The team did not make a huge impression during qualifying, losing 5 of their matches in an always difficult CONMEBOL group. 

Colombia did well to hold on to their position in the automatic qualification spots, beating out competition from Peru, Chile and Paraguay. The country qualified for the World Cup with a 1-1 draw with Peru on the final round of qualifiers. During their last World Cup campaign in 2014, James Rodriguez announced himself on the world stage. Now playing for Bayern Munich, on loan from Real Madrid, the talented midfielder finished as top scorer for Colombia in their qualification with 6 goals. This will be their 6th appearances at the World Cup finals.

Colombia Squad Outlook

Goalkeepers: David Ospina, Camilo Vargas, José Fernando Cuadrado

Defenders: Davinson Sánchez, Yerry Mina, Cristián Zapata, Santiago Arias, Frank Fabra, Óscar Murillo, Johan Mojica

Midfielders: Carlos Sánchez, Jefferson Lerma, James Rodríguez, Abel Aguilar, Mateus Uribe, Juan Fernando Quintero, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, Wílmar Barrios

Forwards: Radamel Falcao, Carlos Bacca, Luís Muriel, Miguel Borja, José Izquierdo

Squad Talk

David Ospina will provide a solid option in the Colombian goal. He also boasts the most caps out of any player selected, representing the team 85 teams. Davinson Sánchez provides a great option in defence for the side as the 21 year old defender is a rapidly rising name in football. He signed for Tottenham in 2011.  He could be a vital component of the team, with the World Cup giving him a chance to truly announce himself to the world.

With a midfield which features James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado, the team look to be a great creative threat. Rodriguez had a breakout 2014 World Cup, showing the world what he is truly capable of. If he replicates his 2014 performance, the Colombians can go far in the tournament again. They reached the quarter finals of the competition in 2014. This was largely thanks to the performances which Rodriguez came up with.

If the country is to do well, they’ll need James Rodriguez to perform like he did at the World Cup in 2014
Source: Getty Images-Clive Rose

Colombia has a great striking unit with players like Radamel Falcao and Carlos Bacca. Falcao is the most prolific striker the country has ever had, leading the country’s scoring records with 29. In order to go far in the tournament, the team will also need to rely on his goals. Falcao is now 32 and this may be his last chance at a World Cup, giving him more motivation to contribute this summer. Both Falcao and Bacca had great seasons in their own leagues. Falcao scored 18 for Monaco this season, while Bacca helped his Villareal team by contributing 15 goals.

King of the Country

One of the most famous Colombians is retired goalkeeper René Higuita. The 51 year old is best remembered for his acrobatics on the field, using a scorpion kick to defend the goal on many occasions. He is also known for often dribbling up field and scoring goals at the end of a long run. As well as this, he also scored goals from penalties and free-kicks. In his club career, he scored as many as 41 goals and he also scored 3 international goals.

Higuita playing for his national side
Source: Getty Images

He earned the nickname ‘El Loco’ for his risky play, something not usually associated with a goalkeeper. That nickname was fully justified when he conceded a goal against Cameroon in the last 16 of the 1990 World Cup when he was well outside his area. His team went on to lose that game 2-1 to Cameroon, partly due to his mistake. This resulted in the team being eliminated from the competition.

Who’s the Gaffa

The current manager is José Pékerman, who has been in charge since 2012. He oversaw the team’s success at the 2014 World Cup. His playing career lasted only 7 years as a horrible injury forced him to retire at the age of 28. However, he has found success as a manager. The Argentine manager has previously led the Argentinean national team and saw them get as far as the quarter finals in the 2006 World Cup. After a couple of spells managing club sides in Mexico, he was appointed manager of the Colombian national team in 2012.

Under Pékerman’s reign, the country has done remarkably well. The country has even reached 3rd in the FIFA world rankings on 3 different occasions since he took over. Pékerman helped to qualify Colombia for the 2014 World Cup, their first since 1998. In the 2015 Copa América, he got the team as far as the quarter finals. The team went out to eventual losing finalists Argentina. He then guided the team to their second successive World Cup, qualifying for Russia 2018 from a tough group.

José Pékerman gives James Rodriguez instructions during a match
Source: AFP-Eitan Abramovich

Editors Opinion

Likely Group Finish: 2nd

This is a strong team with a number of good players who qualified from a very difficult group. With a strong attack, the team could be a real threat in the competition. They have one of the best strikers in Europe in Radamel Falcao and the creative abilities of James Rodriguez will make them a threat for any team that plays them. If James Rodriguez has a similar World Cup to the one he had in 2014, the country should do very well.

Likely Overall Finish: Quarter Finals

Lazy Fan Fact

Like in many South American countries, they live and breathe football. Employees would often be given the afternoon off from work if the national team is playing so they can watch the match.

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