Qualifying from the South American Zone has become a more complicated affair for Colombia. It seems a rather long time ago that the Colombians were considered dark horses to win the 1994 FIFA World Cup USA. But, the Cafeteros are engaged in the sometimes painful process of transitioning teams reliant on different generations.
The further the Colombians move from their "Golden Generation" the more their new talent will emerge. And there is no doubting that the nation has always produced talented and skilful footballers. Past heroes like Jorge Bermúdez, Carlos Valderrama, Iván Valenciano and Freddy Rincón still hang on the neck of Colombian football as hard to live up to memories.
However, past successes are not so far away or hard to revisit. At Italy 1990 Colombia made a positive impact on their first finals in 28 years -- falling only to Cameroon and Roger Milla's two extra time goals. Four years later, they were famously tapped as a solid outsider for success at USA '94.
The qualifying campaign ahead of that tournament certainly supported that appraisal. The Cafeteros famously solidified their status as South American favourites in a final preliminary at rivals Argentina with a devastating 5-0 win. Of course, Brazil walked away with the plaudits, and Colombia were left as the only team from the group (that also included the United States, Switzerland and Romania) to get eliminated from the opening round.
That disappointment was not too heavy at France '98, where the team beat Tunisia but fell rather meekly to Romania and England. Then, despite winning their first major international trophy at the 2001 Copa America, failure to qualify for Korea/Japan '02 brought the side back down to earth.
Colombia's bid for a place at Germany 2006 also proved unsuccessful.
Reinaldo Rueda came in for Francisco Maturana and came mightily close to securing qualification, only to see his side's hopes dashed by Uruguay's win over Argentina on the final matchday. That failure paved the way for the former Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto to take up the reins. The Colombian-born strategist has set about putting together a team combining youth and experience, but one that has yet to reach its full potential if the evidence of the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela is anything to go by.
The qualifiers for South Africa 2010 started well for the Colombians. After four games they were in fourth place with draws against Brazil and Bolivia in La Paz and wins over Venezuela and Argentina. However, consecutive losses to Uruguay and Chile resulted in the sacking of coach Pinto, who was replaced by Eduardo Lara in September 2008.