The team: Everything was looking rosy for Colombia. After a shaky start to qualifying, which cost Leonel Alvarez his job, Jose Pekerman took over and led the team to second place in the group with the third best attack (27 goals) and best defence (13 conceded). Then Falcao got injured. While it’s unfair to say Colombia are a one-man team, it’s hard not to overstate the influence of the free-scoring Monaco striker. It seems the 28-year-old will still play some part in the tournament, but he has only just recovered from knee surgery and won’t be match sharp. Still, Colombia should have enough talent to advance from the group.
The coach: Jose Pekerman
Experienced Jose Pekerman isn’t new to the FIFA World Cup, having managed his native Argentina at the 2006 tournament in Germany. The 64-year-old’s experience could prove vital for a Colombia team that hasn’t played at this level since France 1998.
Key player: Teófilo Gutierrez
With Falcao still fighting for fitness, Colombia’s next most prolific forward, Teófilo, will need to step up. The sometimes fiery striker – he was let go by Argentina’s Racing Club for allegedly threatening his teammates with a paintball gun – has struck up quite a partnership with Falcao. If the River Plate forward can maintain his form, and control his temperament, he could be the answer.
World ranking: 5
World Cup appearances: 4
Previous best: Round of 16 in 1990
Qualification: Second in group
Form (qualifiers): WWWLDWWLDW
Fixtures: June 14 vs. Greece; June 19 vs. Cote d’Ivoire; June 25 vs. Japan