Los Cafeteros 2018: Can Colombia sustain the caffeine-rush?

Colombia World Cup 2018

Colombia, ‘Los Cafeteros’, have always lighted up the FIFA World Cup every time they participate with their mesmerising style of play and undeniably immensely talented stars.

Through the years, they have produced legends of individual brilliance and colourful characters that have been etched in the memories of football fans. Carlos ‘El Pibe’ Valderrama, Freddy Rincon, and Rene ‘El Loco’ Higuita to name a few.

But just like the effect of the product of their moniker, coffee, it seems they fizzle out of the tournament much earlier than expected.

In history, they flatter to deceive early in the proceedings only falter and to bow out soon after just as fans and neutrals start to expect more from them.

In their history of participation in international football’s biggest stage only twice did they manage to go out of the group phase, in 1990 and in 2014.

1990: The Breakthrough Batch

Their run to the knockout stage in the 1990 edition was a welcome surprise since it was just their second time to be back in the fold after 28 years of absence.

But that 1990 squad is where the football world has seen the individual brilliance of creative midfielder Carlos Valderrama, and the eccentricity yet uncanny goalkeeping abilities of Rene Higuita as they pulled a crucial 2-0 win over United Arab Emirates.

Meanwhile, attacking midfielder Freddy Rincon’s legend was etched in the Cafeteros’ history when he scored the equaliser against West Germany that sent Colombia to the knockout stage.

The core players of that historic 1990 team were able to qualify and show up in 1994 with bigger expectations on their shoulders but, sadly, they did not deliver as they failed to reach the next stage.

The same level of performance hounded Colombia in 1998 that also ended with an early exit as it proved to be the swan song for several of their then ageing stars.

What followed after were 16 years of heartache, as the country failed to qualify for the 2002, 2006, and 2010 editions.

2014: Milestone Blend, ‘Almost’ Golden Generation

After a 16-year absence, 2014 proved to be Colombia’s best run, reaching the quarter-final match where they were beaten by hosts and five-time World Cup winners, Brazil.

Despite the exit, it was a campaign that was full of optimism for the future. Head Coach Jose Pekerman was able to introduce breakout stars who became household names after the campaign – winger Juan Cuadrado, goalkeeper David Ospina and most notable of them all, young attacking midfielder and tournament top-scorer James Rodriguez.

Eventually, it proved these talents turned out to be no fluke, maintaining to deliver and live up to the hype for the next four years. And, despite experiencing a rocky qualification campaign, they head into the next edition as the team’s stars.

Another footnote to that 2014 team was it should have been a Golden Generation but not quite, as they missed one key player – star striker Radamel ‘El Tigre’ Falcao, who unfortunately suffered a cruciate ligament tear just before the World Cup. A big ‘What if?’ still looms in World Cup fan discussions as to what the squad could have achieved should Falcao had been healthy.

It’s highly probably that it might have reached more than the quarter-final.

2018: Strong and Balanced – A Promising Blend

Fast forward to 2018, the core of the Colombia’s national team remains intact – James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, David Ospina, are there to act as leaders while new bloods Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Jose Izquierdo bring freshness into the lineup.

But the biggest boost of all, a now-healthy Radamel Falcao is back to his scoring ways and will be raring to step on the pitch for his country in his first World Cup appearance.

With this choice crop of players – veterans and first timers, a new batch of talents, hand-picked by Jose Pekerman, now in his second World Cup stint for Colombia, it seems the product is ripe enough to go the farthest point ever and maybe even reach all the way to contend for the prize.

If that happens, ‘Los Cafeteros – Russia 2018 Batch’ is gonna be one hell of a good cuppa.

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