Columbia National Football team: The sleeping giants
The Colombian National Football team, also known as Los Cafeteros, might see a comeback in the World Cup 2014 after a gap of 16 long years. The last decade of the last century, when the side could boast of players like Carlos Valderrama, Rene Higuita or Faustino Asprilla, was really their best and reached their highest ever FIFA ranking of 4th position in 1996. The side, despite having some of the best talents, could never perform to their level best when it comes to the highest stage in the past two-three decades. The only result of some significance was their reaching the quarter finals of Italia 1990.
With two back to back exits in group stages of the next two world cups (that also saw one of their players, Escobar, being shot dead after scoring an own goal that ultimately led to their group exit) and their failure to qualify for the next three world cups is something that doesn’t speak of the kind of potential they always have. Presently, with the current crop of players and their current standings in World Cup qualifiers, they can really see them go through to the biggest stage in 2014, if they can maintain some amount of consistency throughout (currently they sit at no. 3, adrift of a single point from the top spot).
Colombia’s success at the World Cup 2014 (if they manage to qualify) will largely depend upon the performance of the following players:
Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid)
People talk a lot of Ronaldo and Messi, but when it comes to the question of who is the no. third after them, then they find themselves in a state of dilemma. Well, there can be a debate between a number of players for the much coveted third spot, but Radamel Falcao is one such player who cannot be ignored for being a part of this debate (there are others like Ibrahimovic, Van Persie, Iniesta, Pirlo, to name a few). He came to reckoning among the football followers after his superb UEFA cup performance with Porto and following that, he made news again for the big money switch that he made to join Atletico Madrid. After his joining, he made a name of his own. Often found competing with Messi and Ronaldo for the Pichichi trophy given for the highest goal scorer in La Liga, he is an absolute peach of a finisher. On his day, he can destroy any team all by his own and some of his lethal performances include the destruction of Athletic Bilbao in the UEFA Cup finals and Chelsea‘s destruction in the UEFA Super Cup.
As said by some “you just need to put the ball at his feet inside the box and you don’t have to care for the outcome”.
Colombia needs some top class performances like those in their run to the World Cup 2014.
Jackson Martinez (FC Porto)
After the departure of Falcao from Porto, they were lucky to acquire the services of another poacher in front of the goal in the form of Martinez. The former Jaguares striker has been considered by many as the next Falcao. The stats show that it might be too early to say whether he is as good as Falcao, but definitely has the potential to attract that kind of a comparison. With 22 goals in 20 games, he has certainly blossoming as a dangerous frontman and if allowed to partner Falcao for the national side (might be a bit unlikely as both are similar type of players), their combination can run riot in front of the opposition’s goal.
Freddy Guarin (Inter Milan)
This Internazionale midfielder provides a lot of energy through the middle of the park and can be an integral part of the team. This box to box midfielder adds a lot for his club team with his consistent runs up and down the pitch, tackling in the middle of the park and his eye for goal with his long rangers. Currently being deployed as a trequartista by his club coach Stramaccioni, he has a knack of winning balls higher up the pitch, thereby allowing the more creative Cassano to dictate the game. This one of the major dimensions that he adds to his game.
Christian Zapata (AC Milan)
The centre back, with his towering presence at the heart of the defence, ensures that the back line is secured and kept under his command, such has been his influence currently for his club Milan. Touted by many as the next Nesta, his calmness and composure at the back is one of the main reasons for the recent run of form for AC Milan, who are undefeated in 2013. His partnership with the veteran Mario Yepes will be something upon which rests the performance of the national team a lot.
Pablo Armero (Napoli)
The Napoli left back, through his constant runs down the left flank, can really be useful in stretching the game to the wide areas and is also very solid defensively.
James Rodriguez (FC Porto)
The youngster from Porto has already started receiving plaudits for his performance on the wings and that already saw big clubs like Manchester United and Manchester City chasing him and might be ready to make a big offer for him. Known for his dribbling ability, excellent crosses and the lightening pace to beat the full backs are some of his characteristics that can be very vital for the success of the national side.
Other than the above mentioned players, there are some other players who are yet to reach any kind of stardom but can be worthy for any national side, like Muriel (Udinese), Juan Zuniga (Napoli), Aguilar (Deportivo La Coruna), Juan Cuardado (Fiorentina) and Moreno (Shanghai Shenhua).