Manero

Colombia: Back in the Party

By: Juan Mesa

HOW DID THEY GET HERE: It took 16 years for Colombia to be back in the World Cup. A new generation led by star striker Radamel Falcao and coached by Argentine José Pékerman—who took over the position on the fourth match of the qualifiers—were all the rage during South American qualifiers. The team finished in second place, with 32 points and a plus 14 goal difference.

BIGGEST STRENGTH: Even without Falcao, who got an ACL injury and might miss the World Cup, Colombia’s attack guarantees goals. Strikers Teo Gutiérrez, Carlos Bacca, Jackson Martínez and Adrián Ramos are proven scorers, while midfielders James Rodríguez and Juan Cuadrado can also cause damage with their fine skills.

BIGGEST WEAKNESS: Colombia’s central defenders are old. Team captain Mario Yepes is 38, and central defender Amaranto Perea is 35. They provide experience and encourage teammates, but their lack of speed could be costly in Brazil. Substitutes Cristián Zapata and Carlos Valdés are in the peak of their careers but have not convinced Pékerman to put them in the starting lineup.

WORLD CUP CHANCES: Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan are accessible rivals for Colombia, but the South Americans need to be cautious if they want to advance. But the Round of 16 is a different matter altogether —as the Group C teams that move on might have to face England, Italy or Uruguay, all set in Group D. Colombia has never reached the quarterfinals, so moving there would be cause for a national party.

FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: René Higuita never did his famous scorpion kick in the World Cup, but Colombia can boast to be the only team to score an Olympic goal—one scored out of a corner kick, without touching players—in the tournament. It happened in the Chile ’62 World Cup, during the 4-4 tie with the Soviet Union. The scorer was Marcos Coll, and the defeated goalie, legendary goalkeeper Lev “Black Spider” Yashin.

IF THEY WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: “Intentions” by the Whitest Boy Alive.

Juan Mesa is a freelance writer based in New York City. He covers soccer and Latin music. When he's not writing, you can find him watching soccer games, talking about soccer or collecting soccer memorabilia. To relax, he plays house music vinyls.