Editor’s Note: This post is by Andrew Macia, one of Medellín Living’s new writers. He’ll be covering Colombia in the 2014 World Cup for us.
Monday, June 20th, 1994. This was one of the greatest days of my life! It was the day I met Colombia’s famous 1994 World Cup squad.
I, 14 at the time, had made the trip from Orange County to Long Beach, California with my family to the hotel where the Colombian national team was staying.
When I say family I mean: mom, dad, sister (12), brother (3), aunt, two cousins, and my grandmother. Together with hundreds of fans we were there to greet the team. They were arriving from the airport straight to a press event in the hotel lobby.
I was decked out with my Colombian jersey, hat, team poster, sharpie, and video camera. When the team bus arrived the crowd around it was so big that I barely got a chance to see any of the players as they were escorted into the lobby. I was heartbroken.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I see my grandma (then in her 60s) bolt past security and into the lobby.
I grabbed my sister and approached the mountain of a man at the door and with my biggest puppy dog eyes said, “…sir…um, my grandmother just went inside, she’s old and has dementia (a little fib), is it all right if we go get her?”
He looked at us, looked around (these seconds seemed to be an eternity), grunted and moved aside and let us in.
My sister and I were able to meet and get many autographs, including Medellín’s pride Andres “El Caballero del Futbol” Escobar’s autograph (it’s on the bottom left hand side.)
Two days later, we attended the Colombia vs U.S. match along with 100,000 fans in the Los Angeles Rose Bowl.
At the time we were living in Mission Viejo, which happened to be the place where the U.S. World Cup team trained, I was also able to meet and get all of their autographs as well.
I’ll never forget their last training session; standing with my father, watching the team get on the bus to the airport where they would be flying to Michigan to face Switzerland, and my father (with my baby brother in one arm) calling Marcelo Balboa’s name and him turning to look at my dad, “Macelo! Duro con esos Suecos!”
That is one of those moments in life when you realize that your father is more than just your father, that he doesn’t just work all day, give you Spanish homework, make you laugh with dumb jokes, listen to salsa in the car.
I owe many things to my father, primarily my work ethic and my passion for soccer. I don’t have any children now, but when I do I can only hope to be half the father mine was.
Today, Colombia’s World Cup team has been compared to the historic 1994 crew. Some experts have even gone as far as considering today’s team to be better. In my opinion it is impossible to compare the two until this World Cup is over.
With Colombia’s 23 man roster just being announced on Monday, June 1st, let me help you get acquainted.
Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Nice), Faryd Mondragon (Deportivo Cali), Camilo Vargas (Santa Fe).
Defenders: Camilo Zuniga (Napoli), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Mario Alberto Yepes (Atalanta), Cristian Zapata (AC Milan), Pablo Armero (West Ham), Eder Alvarez Balanta (River Plate), Carlos Valdes (San Lorenzo).
Midfielders: Alex Mejia (Atlético Nacional), Freddy Guarin (Inter), Abel Aguilar (Toulouse), Aldo Leao Ramirez (Morelia), Carlos Sanchez (Elche), Juan Quintero (Porto), Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina), James Rodriguez (Monaco).
Forwards: Carlos Bacca (Sevilla), Teofilo Gutierrez (River Plate), Jackson Martinez (Porto), Victor Ibarbo (Cagliari), Adrian Ramos (Herta Berlin).
At the Helm
Jose Pekerman (Argentina) is heading the ship. He is the first foreign coach in over 30 years.
He has led Argentina to three FIFA World Youth Championships, the Under 20 South American Youth Championship twice, and coached the Argentinian national team in the 2006 World Cup. Pretty nice resume right?
I really like Pekerman’s attacking tendency. He works with variations on the 4-4-2, 4-2-2-2 and 4-2-3-1 formations taking advantage of the teams speed and finesse.
These attacking formations allow midfielders like James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado to be more creative on the ball while allowing adventurous defenders such as Camilo Zuniga and Pablo Armero to fly up and down the wings in support.
By the way, I pray that Pablo Armero scores a goal so that the whole world can see his celebration dance. Getting Colombia through the World Cup qualifiers efficiently and in style, Pekerman has proven to be the man for the job.
Attack! Attack! Attack! Despite not having one of the worlds greatest strikers in Radamel “El Tigre” Falcao (out due to a knee injury) Colombia is still top heavy.
With creative, attack-minded midfielders like Freddy Guarin, Juan Cuadrado, and James Rodriguez lightning quick forwards such as Jackson Martinez and Victor Ibarbo shine.
High temperatures are also in our favor. Colombia played all of their home qualifiers in the scorching Caribbean port of Barranquilla with a designated kick-off time at around mid-afternoon. Weather conditions in Brazil will be pretty much the same.
Though quick, Jackson Martinez, has not proven to click with the team. With the loss of Radamel Falcao the weight of the attack rests on him. At this point I would consider this a weakness.
Despite conceding the least amount of goals during the World Cup qualifiers I still worry about our defense, particularly: Mario Yepes.
At 38 years old he has a lot of experience and is key in the locker room, but lacks pace on the field. I put my trust in the all mighty Pekerman, after all he has dubbed Yepes team captain, but I cannot help but doubt his ability to keep up with a team like Ivory Coast who fly on the field.
Key Players to Watch
Plays with a lot of grace and creativity. His passing ability is incredible and he is deadly in set pieces. Wearing No. 10 he is the creative spark-plug in the mid-field, make sure to keep your eye on him.
Currently courted by top club Barcelona, Cuadrado is an unorthodox type of midfielder.
He is very quick with his feet and good with the handle. His skill with the ball and speed leaves defenders in the dust. He is what in Spanish is called a “jugador de enganche.”
This means that he is the type of player that will draw 2 defenders freeing up others. He will memorize for sure.
I have to throw Mejia in for sentimental value, and so that you do not look like a bonehead when he steps out on the field and you do not know who he is.
He is one of only three Colombian club team players on the squad; whom does he play for?
No less than Atlético Nacional!
We are in Medellín, so when you hear loud cheers when he comes on off the bench you better get up and cheer because he represents not only our city, but our department of Antioquia. He is a solid defensive midfielder and will probably be brought in to contain a lead.
Group and Schedule
Colombia is in Group C. The group seems as though it’s an easy one, but do not be fooled. After all, every team in the World Cup had to beat out many other countries to get here.
- Ivory Coast
Colombia vs. Greece – Saturday, June 14 at 12:00 p.m.
Colombia vs. Ivory Coast – Thursday, June 19 at 12:00 p.m.
Colombia vs. Japan – Tuesday, June 24 at 4:00 p.m.
My brother and my sister and her boyfriend are all coming down to watch the World Cup with me here in Medellín. I am very excited. It’s going to be wild.
Colombia World Cup Champions!
I will be covering all four of Colombia’s matches. For each game I will be going to a different restaurant, bar, or hangout.
I will have a recap of the game and of the party that night. People always ask me who I think will win the World Cup and I always answer, without hesitation, “Colombia of course!”
I truly believe that Colombia can win it all. I think this is the Paisa culture rubbing off on me.
Paisas are very “hechados pa’ adelante” and I love that, so I say, along with my fellow Paisas, “Vamos con toda mi selección Colombia que sos grande!”
I can’t wait till I can visit there and see all it has to offer.