Jose Pekerman’s side clinched their place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ in dramatic fashion on Friday. FIFA.com reveals the key statistics of Los Cafeteros' qualifying charge.
The whole of Colombia was set for a celebration on Friday, eagerly anticipating the return of the national side to the World Cup finals after a 16-year hiatus. The setting could not have been better either: October in Barranquilla – an impregnable fortress in the Pekerman era – with Chile providing some high-quality opposition.
Things did not go according to plan in what turned out to be a catastrophic first half as the visitors, who clearly had not read the script, surged into a 3-0 lead, a situation Los Cafeteros were completely unaccustomed to facing in their own backyard.
With a long-awaited place at Brazil 2014 on offer, however, the hosts had every incentive to conjure up a comeback. And that is exactly what they did, all in the space of 15 second-half minutes, when Teofilo Gutierrez and Radamel Falcao pulled Colombia level to secure a draw and send the nation into raptures, the celebrations made all the more memorable by the dramatic fightback that inspired them.
With the dust having now settled, *FIFA.com *reflects on Colombia’s successful bid for a place at Brazil 2014 by highlighting some key statistics.
33 - The number of players Colombia have used during the qualifying competition. Goalkeeper David Ospina is the only man to have played all 15 matches so far, racking up 1,350 minutes of playing time in the process. The least-used player is Atletico Medellin midfielder Diego Arias, who has been on the pitch for just 13 minutes. Each and every man called up on, however, has contributed to the team’s success.
21 - The number of months that Argentinian coach Pekerman has now been in the Cafetero job. Players, opponents and fans are all agreed that his appointment, which came in January 2012, after Leonel Alvarez was sacked following the defeat to Argentina in Barranquilla two months earlier, was crucial in reviving Colombia’s flagging fortunes.
25 - The number of goals scored by Colombia in the South American qualifying group, the third-highest haul in the competition. In Radamel Falcao, Teofilo Gutierrez and James Rodriguez, to name but three, Los Cafeteros boast a fearsome posse of strikers who are in prime form. El Tigre is the tournament’s fourth-highest scorer with nine goals, tied with Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain and just one behind leading marksmen Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Although the Colombians pack a big punch up front, the man at the other end of the pitch have also had a major hand in their march to the world finals.
12 - The number of goals they have let in, a record that only Argentina, of the eight other teams in the group, can match. The Colombians, who had not conceded more than twice in any one game until the rampant Chileans put three past them on Friday, have been indebted to Ospina’s reliability between the posts and the experience of central-defensive pairing Mario Yepes and Luis Perea. Now 37, the Atalanta stopper is one of the oldest hands on the Latin American scene and also has the dubious honour of having picked up more yellow cards in the CONMEBOL qualifiers than anyone, adding to his reputation as a hardman.
5 - The number of points Colombia dropped in Barranquilla prior to Friday. Los Cafeteros drew one and lost the other of their opening two home games of the competition. Following Pekerman’s arrival, however, Barranquilla became an unassailable stronghold, with the Colombians winning five games in a row there, scoring 14 goals and conceding none in doing so, a record that only came to an end with Chile’s visit. That magnificent home run proved to be one of the key factors in their qualification for the finals.
5 - Brazil 2014 will be the country’s fifth World Cup appearance, the first coming at Chile 1962, when the Colombians finished bottom of their group after losing to Uruguay and Yugoslavia and drawing 4-4 with the USSR. After a long wait there came a magical run of three successive world finals at Italy 1990, USA 1994 and France 1998. Although they failed to progress beyond the group stage at the last two attempts, they did reach the knockout stage in Italy after Freddy Rincon’s late strike earned them a 1-1 draw with Germany in their final group game. Los Cafeteros went down 2-1 to Cameroon in the Round of 16, with Roger Milla scoring twice past Rene Higuita in extra-time.
16 - After a 16-year absence Colombia are back on the biggest stage of all, a stat that is music to the ears of an entire nation.