World Cup Team Profile - Colombia
Coach: Jose Pekerman
Captain: Mario Yepes (Atalanta)
Full Colombia Roster
Road to Rio: Part of what got Colombia their favourable group draw – Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan – was that they were so strong in qualifying and friendlies that they found themselves in the first seeding pot. Colombia finished just two points back of top qualifiers Argentina and qualified one match-day after the Continental powerhouse.
Four road wins, including an impressive 3-1 scoreline against Chile in Santiago, helped the Colombians stay ahead of the logjam for the third and fourth qualification spots. Radamel Falcao led the way for Colombia, scoring eight goals in 16 games. He was outscored only by superstars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez in CONMEBOL qualifiers.
Last World Cup appearance: France 1998 (Group Stage)
First World Cup appearance: Chile 1962 (Group Stage)
Previous World Cup appearances: 4
Best World Cup finish: Round of 16 (Italy 1990)
Losing your best player who just happens to be one of the world's finest goal-scorers should be reason for panic, but the Cafeteros aren't doing that at all. Monaco hitman Radamel Falcao was a longshot to be healthy for Brazil after sustaining a significant knee injury last January in a Coupe de France match. His inclusion on the Colombian preliminary roster was beyond optimistic and, while it certainly is a blow to the Cafereros' attack (Falcao scored a third of Colombia's goals in qualifying), it was one for which they had six months to prepare.
Even without Falcao, the Cafeteros still boast one of the most dynamic offences in the entire tournament. Falcao's Monaco teammate James Rodriguez has turned into one of Europe's best young midfielders with his stylish play and endless creativity. Juan Cuardado (Fiorentina) was imperious on the wing this season, terrifying Serie A defenders with his pace. Up front, Benfica's 20-goal man Jackson Martinez is never an easy mark in the box and should create havoc in Brazil.
Still, the Cafeteros' deficiencies are overt. Even though Colombia conceded the fewest goals in CONMEBOL qualifying, there is a severe lack of depth in the back and it's not a particularly mobile one in the middle. Yepes is 38 and will not dissuade any opposing forwards from fancying a run at him at centre back, leaving Cristian Zapata (Milan) likely carrying the load there. Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon is the tournament's oldest player at 43.
There is reason to be excited about Colombia's chances even if their World Cup history is spotty at best. The Cafeteros are easily the best-equipped side in Group B to deal with the Brazilian heat and only three defeats in two years bodes well for Colombia's ambitions, but it's important for the Cafeteros not to get ahead of themselves.
Colombia should advance to the Round of 16 for just the second time ever, but a heavyweight from Group D could stand in their way of getting any farther.