It was no surprise to see Colombia’s players reduced to tears in the wake of their exit from the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ on Friday. After coming within touching distance of glory, they were left with the stark reality of having to make the trip home with their hands empty. Mixed in with the tears, however, was a strong sense of pride in a campaign that rewrote the history of Colombian football.

The generation that went down fighting against the hosts at Fortaleza’s Arena Castelao will forever have a prominent place in the annals of the Cafetero game, thanks to their status as the first Colombia side to reach the quarter-finals of world football’s premier tournament. Achievements like that do not happen every day, and given the youthful complexion of the side, it would seem that the best is yet to come.  

Satisfaction and sadness sought out exclusive interviews with two players who represent both Colombia’s present and future, and asked them for their views on the giant steps made in the last few weeks and on what the next four years might bring.

The first to approach the microphone was goalkeeper David Ospina, who at the age of 25 has become one of the stars of the side. The second was 21-year-old creative midfielder Juan Quintero, who is more than ready to face the challenges ahead and lead the way.

“Obviously we’re not going away happy,” said the 'keeper, kicking off our chat. “Losing is never nice, especially when you’ve gone toe to toe with the hosts. But I think we can be satisfied with what we’ve done at this World Cup, in going further than Colombia have ever done before, something that will always stay with us.”

His young team-mate is also feeling the pain. His voice breaking with emotion, Quintero attempted to take stock of it all: “It’s very hard. We’re one big family here, with the youngsters and the oldest players coming together. It’s been an incredible experience. It hurts to lose, it really does, especially as we fought as hard as we possibly could.”

Hope for the future
Ospina and Quintero are just two members of a generation that will surely have plenty more to say in the future. The likes of James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Victor Ibarbo have also yet to turn 26, and there is every reason to expect them to be at the peak of their powers by the time Russia 2018 comes around.

It is for that very reason that the Colombia fans, like Ospina, are more than optimistic about what lies ahead. “As far as we’re concerned this is just the start,” said the defiant 'keeper. “We wanted to make history here and go even further, but we know we still have a lot more left to give and that our journey is not over, anything but. I’m sure we’ve got some very good times ahead.”

Also looking forward, Quintero is convinced that Brazil 2014 will provide a springboard for the team: “El Profe [Jose] Pekerman has done an amazing job and we’ve all learned so much at this World Cup. It was a great experience, but it’s also shown us what we’re capable of and what we can achieve in the future. We’re going to be using that know-how to the very best of our ability.”

Having given their fans reasons to celebrate and to shed tears over the last few days, Colombia will now bid farewell to Brazil with the same mixed emotions, albeit with the unshakeable belief that even greater achievements lie ahead.

“We’re going to come back even better, I can assure you of that,” said Ospina, wrapping things up, his sad eyes reflecting a steely determination. “If there’s one thing we’ve got clear in our heads, it’s that we want to go and do this all over again and make our people even happier.”