Colombian football has forged an impressive reputation at youth level over the years, with qualification for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 the country's latest feat. The showpiece on African soil will be Los Cafeteros' fifth appearance at the competition, following trips to Scotland 1989, Japan 1993, Finland 2003 and Korea 2007. Their best showing came under then coach Eduardo Lara in Finland, with Colombia finishing fourth after losing the play-off for third place on penalties to Argentina.
Colombia earned their ticket for Nigeria 2009 at this year's U-17 Sudamericano in Iquique, Chile. Ramiro Viafara's charges started by finishing second in Group A behind Brazil, after wins over the Auriverde and Peru and draws against Bolivia and Paraguay. With the first two FIFA U-17 World Cup berths going to the Brazilians and Group B top dogs Argentina, Los Cafeteros were obliged to contest a four-team play-off for the two remaining places, kicking off with a 3-0 victory over Ecuador followed by a 2-0 reverse to Uruguay. Needing to beat Bolivia in their final encounter to qualify, they went a goal down early on before battling back to a 2-1 success.
Colombia's objective for the elite event in October and November will be the last four, thus matching their best performance so far. And though aware of the challenge ahead, coach Viafara is confident of causing a stir: "We've got a great squad, with lads who are top-quality. We've still got to work on being more clinical and our aerial game, but given time and hard work we'll go into the World Cup in very good form."
Facts and figures
Henry Zambrano (1989) and Fredy Guarin (2003)
Cristian Bonilla (goalkeeper), Wilson Cuero (forward)
Of their seven qualifying games in South America, the Colombians won four, drew two and lost one, scoring 11 and conceding six.
The numbers game
30 - The number of goals Colombia have scored spanning their four previous FIFA U-17 World Cup appearances.
|17||Andres Felipe MOSQUERA|