Get your Mooju back – Colombia back on the world stage with a bang
Two decades on from a disappointing and ultimately tragic World Cup campaign at USA ‘94, the world is falling back in love with the Colombian football team again.
It’s well over 24 hours since Luis Suarez allegedly took a bite out of the shoulder of Giorgio Chiellini, yet it appears as if it is still top of the news agenda worldwide. We’re not trying to make light of what Suarez did, but shocking and unseemly as it was, sometimes you need to put things into perspective.
20 years ago, a highly-fancied Colombia side (under quite severe pressure) crashed out in the group stages of the World Cup in America and the tragic tale of Andreas Escobar, the highly promising defender whose own goal against the host nation contributed to their exit, is so well-known it needs no repeating at this stage.
Colombia did make it to the subsequent World Cup in France in 1998, but their exit in ’94 signalled the beginning of the end of a star-studded team featuring talents such as Faustino Asprilla, Freddy Rincon and the unmistakeable Carlos Valderrama.
All three were present in France alongside a then 27-year old goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón, who probably never envisaged a) that it would be 16 years before Colombia would play in another World Cup or b) that he would still be involved with the national team as a 43-year old.
As it turned out, both of those things ended up happening as with qualification to the last 16 secured following very impressive wins against Greece and the Ivory Coast, Colombian manager Jose Pekerman was able to introduce Mondragón from the bench for the final few minutes of Tuesday night’s clash with Japan when victory had already been secured.
Mondragón will obviously have his own thoughts on the matter, but some will argue that the Colombian squad he’s a part of now is possibly more talented than the most famous Colombian team of this or any generation.
It’s certainly hard not to get excited by the likes of Inter Milan’s Fredy Guarin, Jackson Martinez of Porto and the supremely talented James Rodriguez, the Monaco winger who is up there alongside Arjen Robben as the player of the World Cup so far and whose value has already skyrocketed on the back of three magnificent displays.
Just watch the manner in which he took his goal against Japan and try not to be impressed.
There is an admirable fearlessness about the way Pekerman has Colombia playing and it’s going to take some team to stop them in the knockout stages. Judging by what we’ve seen to date (and with Suarez likely to be absent) they will be favourites against Uruguay next time out and, with none of the potential contenders looking bulletproof so far, who knows what might happen after that?
Even if they don’t go on and win the whole thing, it’s going to be an awful lot of fun watching them until their time at this World Cup comes to an end.