After missing out on the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, Colombia are determined to make an impression at the FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003. Coach Francisco Maturana has brought to Europe a strong and talented group capable of competing with the best. One of their stars, midfielder Gerardo Bedoya, spoke to about his team’s prospects and what the tournament means to him personally.

What does the FIFA Confederations Cup mean to Colombia?
Bedoya: It’s very important for us because it’s an integral part of our preparations for the World Cup qualifying campaign. It also gives us a chance to line-up against some non-South American sides. It’s always interesting to come up against European teams, especially as we are reigning South American champions and representing our continent. Make no mistake, we’re coming to France to win.

Most Europeans know very little about your team; what should they expect?
Technically we are very strong and move the ball around well with a short passing game. We are tough in the tackle too. If I had to pick out a weak point I’d say we don’t score enough goals.

What do you think of the other teams in your group?
It’ll be a tough group. New Zealand are the team we know least of all, although we did notice they lost to the USA last weekend. Japan will be tough; they played poorly against Argentina in a recent friendly, but we all saw how they performed at the last World Cup. As for France, the hosts, everybody knows they are a fantastic team. But then it’ll be eleven against eleven as usual and it’ll be up to us to impose ourselves.

b>How did you think your team-mates performed against Ecuador?
We were strong at the back; we haven’t conceded a single goal in our last three friendlies. But we didn’t take our chances in front of goal. We have to improve in this respect before the Germany 2006 qualifiers get started. We’ve simply got to score more goals.

Which of your team-mates should we look out for in France?
Tough question (pauses, thinking)… Giovanny Hernández, of Deportivo Cali is a very skilful player. But the most important thing is that we play well as a team.

Colombia boasts two Copa Libertadores semi-finalists. Are we about to witness a renaissance for Colombian football?
Our football is improving. We are currently experiencing a healthy renaissance, with a crop of talented youngsters coming through. If we continue in this direction, we could go a long way. Not qualifying for Korea/Japan (2002) was a huge blow. We hope to put things right next time around.

They’ve kept the same format for the next South American qualifiers. How do you feel about that?
It doesn’t bother me. We kick-off with a tough game against Brazil but it’s always a big advantage playing at home. We have to start playing better at home. That’s where we fell down last time.

So the South American qualifying tournament is your number one objective?
Our main objective at the moment is the FIFA Confederations Cup because it’s our next big competition. After that we have the Copa de Oro. Then we will seriously start to think about the qualifiers which are obviously our biggest challenge.