Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez
Group: A (with Argentina, Bolivia and Costa Rica)
Copa America title betting odds: 33/1
Qualifying for quarter-finals odds: 1/20
Group winner odds: 4/1
Finishing in the top two in group odds: 1/5
Copa America 2007 performance: Quarter-finals
Best Copa America performance: Winner (2001)
How are they shaping up?
Colombia have failed to hit the heights at the Copa America since lifting the trophy on home soil a decade ago, when Ivan Cordoba’s towering header gave them a 1-0 win over Mexico in the final. They were hugely disappointing in World Cup 2010 qualification, eventually finishing seventh out of ten, despite a home win over Argentina. Interestingly, they have been paired with the host nation in Group A, which will revive memories of their famous 5-0 victory in Buenos Aires in 1993.
Los Cafeteros have been in patchy form in the lead-up to the tournament, as victories over Ecuador and Senegal were offset by defeats to Spain and Chile, with a recent goalless draw against Mexico also on their record. Gomez is settled on a 4-1-4-1 system which makes them difficult to score against, as shown by the fact that they only conceded 18 goals in 18 World Cup qualifying matches. Veteran AC Milan centre-back Mario Yepes forms a solid partnership with Udinese stopper Cristian Zapata, who has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool. They are also blessed with excellent full-backs in the shape of Carmelo Zuniga and Pablo Armero, who will combine their defensive duties with explosive bursts forward to add plenty of width and verve to their side’s attacks.
However, Colombia’s main problem is at the other end of the pitch, having only managed a measly 14 goals in their unsuccessful bid to reach South Africa. Their midfield lacks creativity and some critics suggest that they have still failed to replace legendary playmaker Carlos Valderrama, although there are high hopes for Freddy Guarin, who was part of Porto’s stunning trophy-winning campaign in 2010-11. They will surely look to another Porto man, Radamel Falcao, to provide the goals to see them through to the quarter-finals.
Caps: 28 Goals: 7
With Colombia struggling for attacking bite, there will be huge expectation placed on Falcao to deliver in Argentina. The former River Plate front man is one of the hottest properties in world football right now after smashing 39 goals in all competitions for Porto as the Portuguese side won a domestic double without losing a game and brought home the Europa League trophy.
Falcao has a number of big-name suitors and is being tipped to follow former boss Andre Villas-Boas to Chelsea this summer in a deal which could exceed £25 million. His record for Colombia is modest in comparison to his recent goalscoring feats in Portugal, but this can perhaps be explained by the fact that he generally ploughs a lone furrow up front and lacks the required support from midfield.
However, with the eyes of Europe’s giants firmly on him at the Copa America, it would not be a surprise to see Falcao notching at least a couple of goals and adding another few million pounds to his rapidly increasing transfer value.
The good news for football betting fans planning to have a flutter on Colombia is that they are in Group A alongside two of the weakest teams in the tournament, Bolivia and Costa Rica. They would expect to pick up six points from those matches, which would be more than enough to see them through to the quarter-finals.
If we assume they will finish second in the group behind Argentina, the machinations of the draw mean they will play whoever comes second in Group C – which is likely to be Uruguay or Chile. While they would be underdogs against either of those two, if Falcao is on fire and can get support from the likes of Wigan’s Hugo Rodallega and the mercurial Dayro Moreno from the bench, then perhaps Colombia could spring a surprise.
Verdict: Eliminated in quarter-finals
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