After 16 long awaited years, Colombia will finally once again be making an appearance at the greatest stage of all sporting events, the World Cup. Colombia last featured in the 1998 France World Cup where they were knocked out in the group stages, with their only win coming against Tunisia with Preciado getting the only goal of the game. Colombia crashed out early leaving the nation to endure a long return to the most famous competition on the planet.

Brazil 2014 will see Faryd Mondragon mark the end of an amazing career. Mondragon is the sole survivor from the Colombian squad that last featured at a world cup, with a 2-0 loss against England in 1998. Mondragon will however be looking to break records in Brazil. An inspiring and much admired man in Colombia, at 43 years of age he is bound to become the oldest ever  player to be included in a World Cup squad, overtaking the record currently held by Roger Milla of Cameroon. Milla also holds the current record at the age of 42 years and 39 days as the oldest player to ever feature in a World Cup match. Although Mondragon will most likely be the understudy to David Ospina this is a record which he could potentially break should he make an appearance in Brazil. Milla also holds the record for the oldest player to score at a World Cup. Furthermore if Mondragon features for Colombia, he will surpass Alfred Bickels’ record of contesting in two World Cups with a 12 year gap between them. These phenomenal achievements must be accredited to his professionalism and ability to maintain peak fitness levels allowing him to prolong his footballing career.

Fast forward to May 2014 and “Los Cafeteros” (as the Colombian football team is known) are once again in the limelight with a team to be proud of, a team with talent and a bright future. Having qualified for the World Cup finishing in second place only two points behind Argentina, (one of the hot favourites to win), Colombia’s chances of doing well in Brazil are surely looking positive and they are once again among the world’s elite in football and it may be said Colombia are back on the map.

Jose Pekerman took over the reins in 2012 from Leonel Alvarez (a former Colombian international) who only achieved four points in Colombia’s first three games of qualifying. To put into perspective the challenging job that Pekerman arrived to, Colombia and Germany will be the countries with the greatest number of coaches managing World Cup teams (Costa Rica, Honduras and Ecuador) yet so many Colombian coaches have come and gone failing to achieve and impose their style of play on the national team. It is ironic that Colombia will have the greatest number of coaches at a world cup yet the national team will be led by an Argentinian who has managed to prove many doubters wrong and has turned Colombia into dark horses for the finals in Brazil.

Much talk recently has been about the £51million talisman Radamel Falcao and his race against time to be fit for Brazil, with Pekerman taking every minute available to delay his 23-man squad selection for the World Cup. However while everyone has been fussing about Falcao, at the opposite end of the ladder, with only a £5 million transfer fee Sevilla signed Carlos Bacca who has humbly and slowly been building himself up a reputation among the world’s best strikers. Bacca has had a phenomenal season, scoring 16 goals, and helping Sevilla lift the Europa League and finish fifth in La Liga. Bacca was also voted by Marca as the best signing of the season beating the likes of Gareth Bale (Bale holds the world record transfer fee at £86 million) and Neymar Junior, so £5 million now seems like an absolute bargain for a player who has achieved this in his first season in Spain.

I must argue that should Falcao have had an injury in free season his place would have been without doubt guaranteed in Colombia’s starting 11. However the knee injury Falcao sustained while playing for Monaco in January surely means that it should be Bacca or Jackson Martinez (who has also had an impressive season with Porto) to take on the role and responsibility to fire Colombia to success in Brazil. While many fans may disagree and urge Pekerman to risk Falcao and Colombia’s talisman, risking a player who is not fully fit would surely be a gamble not worth taking, a statement I make having watched the Champions League final, a game where Diego Costa played not being 100 percent match fit, and lasting only nine minutes with Atletico going on to lose in extra time.

A good run for the Colombia national team in Brazil may just be the start the country so badly needs to help change its outlook on life and its shady reputation.

Sources

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2014/04/09/world-cup-2014-jose-pekerman-proves-critics-wrong-returns-to-world-cup-as-coach/

http://www.espnfc.com/blog/_/name/worldcupcentral/id/1456?cc=5739

http://www1.skysports.com/football/news/11671/9257584/transfer-news-sevilla-striker-carlos-bacca-reportedly-targeted-by-barcelona-and-everton

http://www.marca.com/2014/05/21/futbol/1adivision/1400674426.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/transfers/radamel-falcao-completes-51m-transfer-to-monaco-8640165.html