GROUP C
Colombia

THE 60-SECOND OVERVIEW

Colombians have been playing football their own way for years – technically brilliant, ball-hogging, occasionally self-destructive – but never before have they been as consistent and solid as they have over the last two years.

Since Jose Pekerman took over the national team, some defensive order has been added to their classic, patient style. The result is a very serious side and a possible surprise package to go deep into the tournament, with less obvious flaws than Argentina or Brazil. Recent results also reflect the present form of several Colombian stars currently shining in the key European leagues, even if the loss of star striker Radamel Falcao is a huge blow. Is this generation better than the classic 1990s vintage? That it’s up for a debate is a tribute to Pekerman.

THE DREAM

Colombia's main dream was dashed when Falcao couldn't recover from injury, but even without their top striker, coach Jose Pekerman should have enough options to progress relatively comfortably to the round of 16.

El Tigre is a national icon, but there are a clutch of in-form Colombian strikers to choose from, including Porto’s Jackson Martinez and Teo Gutierrez of River Plate. It's not all about attack, either: Colombia conceded only 13 goals in qualifying, the fewest in their group, helped greatly by the form of goalkeeper David Ospina.

THE NIGHTMARE

They get complacent. Colombians still discuss what went wrong at USA 94, where they arrived as key candidates but left early. They’ve only ever qualified once for the round of 16, and that was in 1990 as one of the best third-placed sides.

Considering their recent form, individual talent, FIFA ranking (5th) and expectations, a setback in Brazil would have a devastating effect for a nation whose happy citizens do tend to anticipate too much in advance. Competing against Japan in the heat of Cuiaba – a very similar location to their Barranquilla fortress – has certainly attracted dangerous early celebrations.

THE STATS
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PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

MAKE HISTORY: FARYD MONDRAGON

The Deportivo Cali goalkeeper could become the oldest player in World Cup history: he’ll turn 43 during the tournament. He made his international debut in 1993 – the year his teammate Alvarez Balanta was born.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

DANCE IN A GOAL CELEBRATION: TEOFILO GUTIERREZ

Had he not been a footballer, Teo could have been a contender as a salsa dancer. Just hope he doesn’t finish his choreography with an obscene gesture, like he did this winter to Boca Junior fans.

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO...

BE SOLD DURING THE WORLD CUP: GUILLERMO CUADRADO

Full-back, midfielder or winger, Fiorentina’s Cuadrado has become a vital man for Pekerman and has been described as “a Brazilian with dreadlocks”. Arsenal, Monaco, Juventus and Bayern Munich’s chequebook-holders are all apparently circling.

DID YOU KNOW?

In 2013, NEWSPAPER EL TIEMPO NAMED Argentinian manager Jose Pekerman as COLOMBIA'S 'Man of the Year': “With his Roger Waters face and his broad smile, he performed a miracle.”

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Always good to watch, Colombia could explode or implode. They may miss Falcao - who wouldn't? - but should still make the knock-outs.