Colombia: Real ContenderBy: Juan Mesa
Colombia made a splash in Brazil 2014 thanks to its stylish game. They lost in the quarterfinals against the home team, but the Cafeteros’ 10, James Rodríguez, won the Golden Boot after scoring six goals.
Both the World Cup performance and James’s performances in Europe are reason enough to consider Colombia a real contender in Chile.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: Colombia’s attack is lethal even after Radamel Falcao’s knee injury. Jackson Martínez (Porto), Teo Gutiérrez (River Plate) and Carlos Bacca (Sevilla) make scoring goals easy, and behind them they have James, who scored 15 times in his first year with Real Madrid.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: After Brazil 2014, defenders Amaranto Perea and Mario Yepes retired from international competition, leaving coach José Pékerman with the task of building a new backline. Most soccer teams are built from the defense up, and Colombia is having to do so from scratch for the Copa América.
COPA AMERICA CHANCES: It would be surprising not to see Colombia advancing from the group stage (they are in group C, with Brazil, Peru and Venezuela), or fighting for the title. Colombia will have Falcao back in the final roster (he missed the World Cup), yet his form is uncertain after a bad season with Manchester United.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Colombia won the Copa América at home in 2001, right in the middle of the kidnapping of a Colombian Federation official by guerrillas. CONMEBOL threatened to cancel the event due to security concerns, and Argentina and Canada withdrew, but it was played on schedule with Honduras and Costa Rica replacing the missing teams. Colombia beat Mexico 1-0 in the final.
IF THEY WERE A MOVIE, IT WOULD BE: Denzel Washington’s Remember the Titans. Colombians initially resisted the idea of having a foreign coach, but Argentine José Pékerman proved himself and is now considered a full-fledged Cafetero.