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Colombia

2018 FIFA World Cup contenders – Colombia

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Colombia were relatively late comers into the FIFA World Cup. At the first edition of the competition in 1930 in Uruguay, they were not yet members of the football’s governing body, FIFA. And due to myriad reasons it took Colombia until the 1962 edition of the World Cup in Chile to make their bow at the prestigious competition.

It wasn’t the best of debuts for Colombia as they bowed out of the event in the first round after losing twice and drawing the third of their group games. The South Americans failed to qualify until 1990. At the 1994 World Cup, they were widely tipped to be amongst the better teams at the competition. Pele, in fact, predicted them to go all the way and win the World Cup. However, it was a whole different story in the United States as they failed to win any of their three group games and went home from the first stage itself.

Colombia had their best performance at football’s acme event at last year’s edition in Brazil. Los Cafeteros were tipped to be among the dark horses at the competition, owing to the obvious quality in their ranks. They were led by the legendary Argentine manager Jose Pekerman and had quality across the team with the likes of James Rodriguez, Carlos Bacca, Juan Cuadrado, Fredy Guarin, David Ospina and Jackson Martinez amongst others. Radamel Falcao was a notable absentee from the squad after he suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear prior to the competition during a domestic fixture while playing for Monaco.

Pekerman’s men captivated the spectators with their attractive, attacking football in Brazil. They comfortably made it to the round of 16 after registering convincing wins over Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan in their group games. They drubbed fellow South Americans Uruguay 2-0 in the first knockout rounds. Both of the goals were scored by Rodriguez, the first of which was a sumptuous volley that went on to win the Ferenc Puskas award for being adjudged the most beautiful goal of the year.

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Colombia faced the hosts Brazil in the quarter-final, and the overtly physical game, atypical of the flair football that the South Americans pride themselves in playing, ended in a 2-1 win for the hosts as Colombia bowed out with their heads held high after a remarkable tournament, which turned out to be their most successful ever.

A year later, they failed to thrive at the Copa America as they bowed out of the continental competition sooner than anyone anticipated. Nevertheless, the quality in their ranks is unquestionable and with the vastly experienced Pekerman at the helm, Colombia will be expected to find their form soon.

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The core of the squad is expected to be similar in Russia in three years time to what it was in Brazil last summer. The side will be led by the gifted Rodriguez. Cuadrao, Bacca, Ospina, Santiago Arias and Jeison Murillo are all expected to be integral part of the side in 2018.

Although Los Cafeteros may not be the favourites to win the World Cup in Russia, they will surely regale fans with exciting and attacking football.