Bienvenidos to HotFooty’s Copa America Colombia preview. From now until the Copa America opening game on June 3rd HotFooty will be profiling the top teams entering into the oldest tournament in the world. Never heard of Carlos Bacca? Only experience with Colombian soccer is from “The Two Escobars“? (which by the way is unbelievable and you should watch it). We’ve got you covered. Next up in the series is a team who has risen back to prominence in recent years, a team whose love of coffee and dedication to the perfect roast makes your local man-bunned barista weep under a bike-rack, a team from COLOMBIA.

Colombia – Team Info

Team nickname: Los Cafeteros (The Coffee growers). Seriously. Original Hipsters. Brooklyn and Portland are on notice.

Current FIFA world ranking: 4

Home stadium: Estadio Metropolitano Roberto Meléndez (location on a map for those of us who need a little help)

Copa America wins: One, in 2001. They won while hosting the tournament. They beat Mexico in the final game on a 65′ Ivan Córdoba goal. He captained the tournament at only 24 and went on to have a 12 year career at Italian club Internazionale.

World Cup wins: None. Highest position was 5th place in 2014, which was their first WC since 1998.

Randomest Fact: Coach José Pékerman, the first non Colombian coach in 31 years, was appointed in 2012 after previously coaching the Argentinian U-20 and National Teams. Following Colombia’s qualification for the 2014 World Cup, he received Colombian citizenship from the president of Colombia. I had no idea that was even possible. “and YOU get a citizenship and YOU get a citizenship and YOU get a citizenship.”

Oh, and Colombia was home to Carlos Valderrama, the most capped player in Colombian history. He had and still has THE hair. Here’s a little visual reminder of what the world is missing out on each weekend now that he’s retired. In case you forgot, he was kind of a legend in the MLS as well, so everyone should respect the golden curl-puff. If you don’t know, now you know.

Even when he’s frowning he’s smiling, THAT’S HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE TO THE MAXXXX

Biggest Rivals

Depends on who you ask, but the most popular rivalry is with Argentina. There has been some memorable matches between the two, most notably the 1993 5-0 Colombia win during World Cup qualifiers on Argentina’s home turf. Most recently they got knocked out of the 2015 Copa America by Argentina on penalty kicks during the quarterfinals. The neighboring countries Ecuador and Venezuela dig up some rivalry feelings as well. Colombia (Group A) could bump into Ecuador (Group B) in the quarterfinals but would have to reach the semifinals to have a shot at Venezuela (Group C) or Argentina (Group D).

Featured Player to watch

James Rodríguez

The certified star of the Colombian national team, he’s a 24 year old midfield whippersnapper who burst onto the scene after winning the golden boot at the 2014 World Cup and landed himself a gig at Real Madrid. The first season there was pretty good but then he fell out of favor by the end of the year and the second year has seen much of the same despite doing things like this:

He’s said something to the effect of “I play better when people don’t boo me” in reference to his great play for Colombia while being on the bench for Real Madrid. It’s hard to blame the guy for being chippy, Real Madrid fans can be ruthless and despite his 13 goals in 29 appearances in la liga 2015 he’s basically surplus to requirements at Zidane’s squad. But guess what, he’s on basically every manager in the world’s list of targets and he’s going to land somewhere for an enormous fee and everyone will smile once more.

Rodriguez is going to be the playmaker for Colombia in midfield so you’ll be seeing plenty of him building up play and making runs as an attacking midfielder. He’s also an excellent free-kick taker, as you can see here.

 

Other Players to Watch

David Ospina, in addition to being the brother to James Rodriguez’s wife, he’s the backup keeper (sometimes starter) for Arsenal and the starting keeper for the Colombian team. He’s the kind of goalie that drives coaches absolutely insane by getting himself caught too far out of net on a corner but then pulls some of the sickest reflex saves ever. He’s also relatively short for a goalie so that has come back to bite him in the past but overall he’s fairly phenomenal. Check out some of these saves in last year’s Copa against Argentina. Ridiculous

Carlos Bacca, unless you’re a big Serie A or Sevilla fan you probably haven’t heard of him, but he scored 18 goals in 38 appearances for the Italian club AC Milan and another 3 goals in 2 appearances in the Colombia World Cup Qualifiers in March. He was also a stud on the Sevilla team that won two Europa Cups while he was there and he scored a brace in the 2015 finals. (although apparently they’re going to win them forever). He’s an aggressive and quick goal fiend and he’ll be a menace to opposing back lines all tournament. Pay attention to this guy.

Juan Cuadrado, currently on loan from Chelsea at Italian side Juventus, he’s been a key factor in their run to the title this year and is currently being pursued by the club to sign on a permament basis. He’s 28, 4 goals and 5 assists in 38 Serie A appearances for Juve and he’s got a spicy haircut. Here’s him scoring against Bayern Munique this March in the Champs League.

Games to watch

Colombia’s first match is against the USMNT on June 3rd at 9:30pm EST. The game takes place in Santa Clara, California at Levi’s Field. If you’re not watching this then what are you even doing with your life? If you need a little help getting your calendar squared away for the game, here’s the full group stage TV schedule.

If you’re trying to go to travel to any of the group games and want help booking , check out this site for tickets and travel info. Or you can always go ticketmaster for tickets if you don’t need all the extras.