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Copa America: Colombia is Building Their Reputation

Good teams build their reputations on results at major tournaments. Spain won three major tournaments in a row, Euro 2008, World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012. Germany was considered a world power in soccer that couldn’t seal the deal until they finally won the World Cup last summer in Brazil. Brazil has built their reputation by winning five World Cups, the most by any team, along with eight Copa America’s including five of the last ten editions. Colombia came on strong at last year’s World Cup after being predominantly dormant for the better part of the past decade and has now raised their expectations by being the fourth ranked team in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Rankings, behind third ranked Argentina.

Copa America: Colombia is Building Their Reputation

The quarterfinal match up against Argentina will be a good opportunity to prove whether this is a team to consider a major south American power or just one that has enjoyed a good run. Colombia has been building up for this moment:

2007 Copa America – Hitting Rock Bottom

Colombia went into the Copa America expecting to advance out of the first round. They were in Group C with Argentina, Paraguay and the United States. Colombia’s optimistic hopes of potentially getting a few results go their way in order to advance were dashed early as they gave up three goals in the final ten minutes of their opening game against Paraguay to lose 5-0 and then blew an early lead against Argentina to lose 4-2. They salvaged their tournament appearance with a hard fought 1-0 win over the United States, however the three points were not enough to get them out of the group stage and spiraled the team into a four year abyss.

2010 World Cup – Building Hope

The Cafeteros 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign got off to a solid start as they went undefeated in their first six qualifiers, including a 2-1 win at home over Argentina, before falling 1-0 at home to Uruguay. The team failed to qualify for the World Cup, missing the play-off spot behind Uruguay by one point. In the end two losses to Venezuela during qualifying seemed to doom Colombia, however, the failed qualification was not without positives. Colombia began to find goal scorers throughout the campaign in the form of Radamel Falcao, Teofilo Gutierrez, Jackson Martinez, Hugo Rodallega, and Adrian Ramos who would help bridge the national team from one bottom half of CONMEBOL to a potential continental champion.

2011 Copa America – Falcao Emerges

Colombia went into the 2011 Copa America ranked 35th in the world, however, only 7th best out of 10 in the CONMEBOL region but was pitted in a group that they were expected to advance out of. Colombia was in Group A with hosts Argentina, CONMEBOL basement dwellers Bolivia and CONCACAF invitees Costa Rica, who sent their B squad to the tournament. Argentina’s opening game stumble, a 1-1 tie against Bolivia, along with a tie against Colombia, opened the door for Colombia as they beat Bolivia and Costa Rica and eventually finished first in the group behind star striker Radamel Falcao and Captain Mario Yepes. In the quarterfinals, Colombia were heavy favorites as a first place team meeting one of two third place teams, Peru. Unfortunately, the Colombians did not expect Peru to play them so tough and in extra time Peru scored two goals to eliminate Colombia 2-0. Falcao could have ended the game in regular time, however, shot a sure fire goal wide of the net. The world had already seen the potential of this team and expectations rose for the 2014 World Cup Qualifiers.

2014 World Cup – The Arrival of James Rodriguez

Colombia finished World Cup Qualifying in second place, only two points behind leaders Argentina thanks to the rise of Falcao and the arrival of James Rodriguez. Teofilo Gutierrez was a large contributor as well to the run for the World Cup, however, it was the injury to Falcao while playing for club team Monaco four months before the start of the tournament that changed the fate for the national team. Falcao was the face and key weapon for Colombia during the qualifiers, however, without Falcao, James was able to flourish as he helped pick up the attacking slack and won the Golden Boot with six goals. Colombia ran through the group stage picking up three wins in three games with relative ease. Their Round of 16 game became the James highlight reel as he scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Uruguay before going on to lose to hosts Brazil in the quarterfinals 2-1.

Colombia went from being ranked as high at #17 in 2007 to dropping to #49 the following year, to finally cracking the top 10 in 2012 and making it as high as #3 in 2014. As they prepare to play Argentina, they face an opponent they have only beaten eight times, lost 21 and tied six. The last time Colombia beat Argentina was in November 2007 in a World Cup 2010 qualifier, 2-1. Current national team midfielder, Carlos Sanchez was the only player on this year’s Copa America squad who was on the field for Colombia that night.

Ironically, Colombia had dropped down to #34 in the world in 2007 and a strong start to their World Cup Qualifying fixtures helped them climb back up slowly, with the win over Argentina launching them to their highest ranking that year. In the quarterfinals, a win over Argentina could launch the Cafeteros a step closer to becoming South American champions and building their reputation back up, a journey that began eight years ago at the 2007 edition of the Copa America.

Photo by Miguel Tovar/LatinContent/Getty Images


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