Colombia recovered from a stuttering start to the South American qualifiers to waltz into the Brazil 2014 finals with a record-breaking points tally. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Managerless and slumped in the lower reaches of the table after three games, Colombia’s long-awaited finals bid first looked in trouble.

The appointment of Jose Pekerman in January 2012, however, saw a remarkable transformation. Under the Argentine’s watch, Los Cafeteros did not lose a single qualifying game at home and eventually finished second. Even the stoical coach cracked under the emotion of returning his adopted country to the finals as one of the top-ranked sides. “This is historic; only word champions start as seeds,” he said. “It’s a marvellous achievement.”

The long-term injury of Falcao could see the talismanic striker miss the finals. Yet optimism remains high due to the array of attacking options this Colombian side boast. Blessed with style, pace and balance, Pekerman’s team seek to control play by employing a high-energy pressing style to secure possession.

Colombia’s draw has been relatively kind and fans are optimistic about reaching the Round of 16. From there much will depend on how their aging defence copes when up against stronger competition. But the key goal for Colombia is clear: progress to the quarter-finals for the very first time.

COACH>>

JOSE PEKERMAN

Pekerman once swore he would never coach any country other than his native Argentine. But for Colombia he made an exception. Crucially he understands the country’s fragile football identity and, in just 22 months, he delivered on his promise to return Colombia to the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 1998.

Fixtures Group C

Greece
Belo Horizonte 14 June 2014

Cote d’lvoire 20 June 2014
Brasilia

Japan 25 June 2014
Cuiaba

*Dates are AEST

Tournament history
Previous tournaments: 4

2010 FIFA World Cup performance
Did not qualify

Best performance
Round of 16, 1990

How they qualified
Second, South American group