Colombia
© AFP

The past
Since making their FIFA U-20 World Cup debut at USSR 1985, Colombia have amassed a total of six appearances at the showpiece competition. Three of those came in consecutive fashion in 1985, 1987 and 1989, though the latter edition of the competition on Saudi Arabian soil was the first time Los Cafeteros reached the knockout stages. Their only trip to the tournament in the ‘90s came at Australia 1993 before, on their return to the fray at UAE 2003, coach Reinaldo Rueda’s charges stormed all the way to a deserved third place. At Netherlands 2005, during current coach Eduardo Lara’s first spell at the helm and fresh from winning the U-20 Sudamericano, Colombia had the misfortune to cross paths with eventual winners Argentina and star man Lionel Messi in the Round of 16.  

The present
Lara’s side struggled to find their feet at this year’s South American U-20 Championship in Peru, finishing bottom of the standings in the six-team final round and falling well short of clinching a place at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament London 2012. One win, three draws and five defeats was their overall record at the continental competition, which suggests this crop of Colombian hopefuls will need more than just home advantage to follow the example of the class of 2005 – winners of that year’s Sudamericano as host nation.    
 
The future
Los Cafeteros go into their seventh FIFA U-20 World Cup charged with proving their performance in Peru was a mere blip. The country’s podium finish at UAE 2003 is an example of what can be achieved, and to that aim coach Lara will surely put his faith in his more experienced performers such as Santiago Arias and Michael Ortega. He also called on the likes of European-based key men James Rodriguez and Luis Muriel too, who were unable to take part in the Sudamericano. “What happened in Peru was disappointing, but it’s not easy for these lads to cope with the pressure they’re under,” said Lara. “Our aim now is to work even harder still and show another side to our game at the World Cup," added the coach who lead his renewed team to the title in the Toulon Tournament.