Colombia
© AFP

The past
In reaching the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013, Colombia have qualified in their own right for the global showpiece for the first time since Netherlands 2005. They did, of course, participate in the 2011 edition, where they reached the last eight, but qualification on that occasion was by virtue of being hosts.

At the 2005 edition, a Cafetero squad spearheaded by Radamel Falcao reached the Round of 16, only to exit at the hands of eventual champions Argentina, who were inspired by a future superstar of their own in Lionel Messi. Colombia’s best performance to date in this competition dates back to United Arab Emirates 2003, when they finished third under coach Luis Rueda. This year’s tournament on Turkish soil will be Colombia’s eighth appearance at a FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The present
Coached by Carlos Restrepo, Colombia will head to Turkey 2013 as South American champions, though their early progress in the Sudamericano was far from smooth. Indeed, though they qualified for the six-team final phase by finishing second in Group A, they lagged all of six points behind section winners Chile. However, Los Cafeteros subsequently won their opening three games of the decisive round to book their FIFA U-20 World Cup berth with room to spare. Beaten by La Roja in their penultimate game, Colombia and influential creator Juan Quintero – of Italy’s Pescara – bounced back to sink Paraguay in the last match to claim their third regional title at this level.

The future
“We want to go to Turkey and put in a good performance, but before that we need to analyse the situation, scout the rival teams and plan everything as well as we possibly can. What’s more, we know that we’ve still got some flaws to iron out,” said Restrepo after victory in the Sudamericano. “This is a great way to start the year for Colombia and its football, particularly if you think many of these lads could make it into the senior side and will keep producing for us in the future.”