The gruelling South American qualifying process has not always smiled on the Colombian national team, as their modest total of four appearances at the final stages of the FIFA World Cup™ demonstrates. Their most productive period came in the 1990s, when they achieved three successive qualifications, for Italy 1990, USA 1994 and France 1998. Since then, the Colombians have struggled, never finishing higher than sixth in the CONMEBOL league table in their last three attempts. Leonel Alvarez took the reins as coach in September 2011 only to be let go just three months later. Alvarez had come into the role following the resignation of Hernan Dario Gomez, who was in charge when Los Cafeteros last obtained a ticket for the planet’s premier football tournament in 1997.
FIFA World Cup finals history
With the exception of Italy 1990, when the golden generation that included Rene Higuita and Carlos Valderrama slipped up against unfancied Cameroon in the Round of 16, Colombia have never made it past the group stage at the FIFA World Cup. In fact, an analysis of the other three campaigns reveals a disappointing combined record of six defeats, one draw and just two wins at the tournament.
The current crop
For the first time in many years, the future of Colombian football looks extremely bright, thanks to a successful revamp that has seen outstanding players from lower age categories gradually introduced into the squad. The team can count on talented players with considerable European experience, such as Radamel Falcao, Fredy Guarin and James Rodríguez among others, which has given the local fans and media hope that the South American nation can re-emerge onto the world stage in 2014. At the 2011 Copa America, Colombia's first big test on the road to Brazil, Los Cafeteros showed some quality football, but surprisingly tumbled out at the quarter-final stage to Peru.
The key players
With his sparkling form at Atletico Madrid, the prolific Falcao is now generally regarded as Colombia’s main attacking threat. The 25-year-old predator came to prominence at River Plate, first in the youth team and then with the senior side, before moving to Europe in 2009 where he won two Leagues, two Cups, three Super Cups and the UEFA Europa League with Porto, and then added another UEFA Europa League and European Super Cup with current side Atletico Madrid. As well as Falcao, the Colombians can count on the experience of Mario Yepes at the back, as well as the talents of Guarin, Giovanni Moreno and James Rodriguez in midfield and Teo Gutierrez up front.
Coach: Jose Pekerman
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003 (Third place), FIFA World Cup Italy 1990 (Round of 16)
Former stars: Rene Higuita, Carlos Valderrama, Faustino Asprilla