We continue our run down of the teams involved in the 2011 Copa America, which kicks off on July 1, with a look at Columbia.
A group stage exit from the previous Copa América followed by a limp qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup suggests Colombia are failing to fire on all cylinders. Hope for los Cafeteros comes in the form of emerging talents, such as Europa League winning pair Freddy Guarín and Radamel Falcao.
Momento de gloria
Colombia claimed their one and only Copa América title a decade ago. The victory came on home soil when Ivan Córdoba soared like the condors of Nevado del Ruiz to head home the winner against Mexico. Cynics say that the tournament was devalued by Argentina’s withdrawal amid security threats.
El director técnico
Hernán Darío Gómez is no stranger to the pressure that comes with coaching his country. El Bolillo served as Franciso Maturana’s number two at a brace of World Cups in the early nineties before calling the shots himself at France 1998. Gómez will be deploying a 4-1-4-1 formation in Argentina that offers plenty of protection at the back but also limits his options up front.
Mario Yépes is a natural leader on the pitch and a centre-back fresh from helping AC Milan win yet another scudetto. Super Mario has been a key component of Colombia’s backline for over a decade and played alongside Ivan Córdoba in the 2001 final. Yépes will have to be in constant communication with the less experienced members of los Cafeteros if the side are to maintain their concentration during matches.
It’s no secret that Colombia are yet to replace Carlos Valderrama and therefore lack the guile to unpick a defence by going through the middle. Gómez plans to get around this deficiency but launching raids down the flanks. Full-back Camilo Zúñiga arrives in Argentina after a blistering year with Napoli and will combine with Freddy Guarín to instigate Colombia’s attacks from the right side of the pitch.
Dayro Moreno has been repeatedly tipped for greatness since he burst onto the scene as a teenager with Once Caldas. DayGlo has the speed and skill to terrorise defences but his lackadaisical approach often leaves his manager frustrated. Turning down a move to Sporting Lisbon in favour of Club Tijuana is a telling insight into Dayro’s personality.
If Zúñiga manages to make a nuisance of himself on the right side of the pitch then space could open up for left-back Pablo Armero to get in on the act. Udinese have been reaping the benefits of Armero linking up with Chilean wing wizard Alexis Sanchez and now both players are being linked to big money moves. Should Armero find the net in Argentina watch out for his trademark celebration.
The long-term injury suffered by Giovanni Moreno plus Dorlan Pabon’s exclusion sees Gómez missing out on some sorely missed creativity in the middle of the park.
Rumores de transferencia
Cristian Zapata to Liverpool, Radamel Falcao to Tottenham Hotspur, Pablo Armero to Arsenal.
Bucking the trend of party loving Colombian footballers is Radamel Falcao and his wife Lorelei Dahiana Tarón. The couple met at church while Falcao was playing in Argentina and were soon back at the altar getting hitched.
Síguelo en Twitter
@hugorod20 - i want to thank all the wigan fans for your great support this season.
La opinión experta
I’m enjoying what I’m seeing from Hernan Darío Gómez, his tactics and the players he is using. I know he’s focused on setting up the team in a 4-1-4-1 formation. This shape has been working for us but I’m not sure we have an alternative for when we need to impose ourselves on a match. At the heart of our defence I worry that Yépes has not been playing regularly in Italy so I hope that he can hit the ground running alongside Cristian Zapata. Having Argentina in our group makes things difficult but I think if Colombia can get it together for a few good performances we can look back on a successful tournament.
Alexis García - Head coach of La Equidad (Colombian league runners-up)
An improvement on the group stage exit in Venezuela four years ago should be well within Colombia’s grasp. After that, anything achieved in the knock-out stages will be treated as a bonus.
Colombia’s 5-0 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires is a treasured but distant memory for fans of los Cafeteros. While Colombia are unlikely to get anything from the match with Argentina they should do enough against Bolivia and Costa Rica to progress from Group A. However, the fact remains that Colombia are still a poorer team than the six South American nations who finished above them in qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup. They will need a very kind draw to progress past the quarter-finals.
¿Por qué ser fanático?
Anybody out there wanting to get their hands on some half-time reading material ahead of next season could do worse than picking up a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Colombian Nobel Prize winner Gabriel García Márquez’s tale of a struggle against the odds will resonate with most football fans.
¿Un club en League Two?
After being undermined by a series of off-the-pitch problems in the nineties we are back on our feet. With a military presence never far away, we throw Colombia’s lot in with Aldershot FC. Unfortunately, very few in Colombia are happy to hear the news that the Shots are in town.
Throw some Aguardiente down your throat, tuck into the Sancocho soup and let the Vallenato rhythms flow through your body. Join in with the sea of faces down at la Plaza de Bolivar, say it loud and say it proud, “CO-LOM-BIA! CO-LOM-BIA!”
René Higuita and his scorpion kick were absent from the 1994 World Cup on account of the goalkeeper being out of shape after serving a seven month jail sentence. Higuita was jailed for acting as courier of the ransom money paid to release an 11-year-old girl from kidnappers. The goalkeeper has since said, “"The best moments of my life are the ones I spent in jail.”
Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Nice, FRA), Luis Martínez (Once Caldas, COL), Bréiner Castillo (Independiente Medellín, COL).
Defenders: Mario Yépes (AC Milan, ITA), Aquivaldo Mosquera (América, MEX), Luis Amaranto Perea (Atlético Madrid, SPA), Cristian Zapata (Udinese, ITA), Pablo Armero (Udinese, ITA), Camilo Zúñiga (Nápoles, ITA), Yulian Anchico (Pachuca, MEX), Juan David Valencia (Junior, COL).
Midfielders: Juan Guillermo Cuadrado (Udinese, ITA), Elkin Soto (Mainz 05, GER), Abel Aguilar (Hércules, SPA), Freddy Guarín (FC Porto, POR), Carlos Sánchez (Valenciennes, FRA), Gustavo Bolívar (Tolima, COL).
Strikers: Hugo Rodallega (Wigan, ENG), Adrián Ramos (Hertha, GER), Teófilo Gutiérrez (Racing, ARG), Radamel Falcao García (FC Porto, POR), Jackson Martínez (Jaguares, MEX) and Dayro Moreno (Club Tijuana, MEX)
v Costa Rica 02/07/2011 15:30 San Salvador de Jujuy
v Argentina 06/07/2011 21:45 Santa Fe
v Bolivia 10/07/2011 16:00 Santa Fe
Fifa ranking: 50
Odds to win: 20/1
Copa America record: P101 W38 D18 L45 F122 A180
Copa America best: 2001 champions
More teams will follow in this daily series. Plus, for more on Copa America 2011, listen to The South American Football Show.