Saturday, May 10, 2014

Meet the Team: Colombia

At least they don't have a
furry farmer for kids to hug
Nickname: Los Cafeteros (or "The Coffee Growers) is a nice nod to the regional industry and a good sight better than "Los Cocaíneros"

Star: One of the slightly lesser known strikers of doom at this year's cup is still tremendously talented and certainly worth keeping an eye on. Radamel Falcao doesn't have the endorsement deals or international press scrum that Messers Rooney, Messi, Ronaldo or Balotelli do, but he has just as much of a nose for the net as anyone else. A knee injury hasn't kept him off initial lists of players, but may not let him shine as he had expected to.

Hip-Star: More important than the strikers in all of Colombia's play are the creators, and more important than the hottest young star in Colombian midfield (James Rodriguez) is his running mate and more forward moving mid Juan Guillermo Cuadrado. So...obviously he's the real star...assuming you aren't a sheep who just cheers for goals...obviously.

X-Factor: There are four players over 30 on the potential list of players for this year's cup, which means that age will matter--even if it's not in the way we usually think it will. Colombia's roster all has international experience and have been bound together by their coach and federation for a good while, but the flip side of youthful optimism is overconfidence; the flip of energy is panic. Colombia's young and will make mistakes...whether or not they can afford them is another matter.

File:Statue of Carlos Valderrama (by Amilkar Ariza).jpg
They really captured the knee
Coach: José Pékerman is a rarity, a South American who is coaching a great team, but isn't coaching his own national squad. After a solid, though not spectacular run at the 2006 Cup with his home country of Argentina, he went off for more adventures and challenges. Colombia boasted the challenge of a decade long drought, and and adventurous squad. The results have been solid as Pékerman guided Colombia to one of the top 8 seeds in this year's cup.

History: It's been a long time coming for Colombia, sixteen years after their last trip they're coming back and in great form. Of course, this team is a far cry from their early 90s predecessors, particularly because no one can match either the flair nor the hair of their most capped player: Carlos Valderamma

File:Arepas con chorizo.jpgFood: In the mood for a Colombian meal that you can cook faster than most of the Colombian team can run down the pitch? We recommend the local street food of choice: arepas emparedado  (or corn flour flatbread sandwich)--And hey, if we have a Merguez dog for Algeria, this looks like a great way to get our chorizo fix.

Fool: There have been strong signs of a cessation of hostilities between the government and rebel groups throughout the country's jungle based drug runners. But somewhere out there Victor Gonzalez Sierra of the Black Eagles is still serving his stereotypical shenanigans for goofy pundits like me.

Best Case: Falcao makes it all the way back, the defense shores up its question marks, and Colombia plays every bit as well as people expect, upending Brazil in the quarterfinals and getting all the way to the finals against Spain.

Worst Case: Falcao doesn't make it back, the defense cracks so much the midfield starts hopping around to avoid breaking their mothers' backs. And a faster Japan, fiercer Ivory Coast and funkier Greece send them crashing out.

My prediction: Good as Colombia is, I can definitely see them being surprised by the pace and passing acumen in a tougher group than you might expect. They can get through, but may have to rely on goal differential. But I still see them into the quarterfinals topping Italy after their first round faltering before falling to Spain.

Added Bonus! The biggest band in recent Colombian hip-hop history joins our Hip Hop World Cup. ChocoQuibTown with "Donde Vengo Yo"

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