After a run of seven World Cup qualifiers in a row without scoring a goal, Colombia’s chances to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar are hanging by a thread. Can Colombia stay in the battle for Qatar?
After the defeat against Peru in January, Colombia’s outlook on qualifying for their third World Cup in a row is not good. Manager Reinaldo Rueda had a decent start to his return to the national team, but with four points from the last seven qualifiers, they find themselves in a place where they depend on results from the other contenders. Los Cafeteros need Uruguay and/or Peru to drop points in both their games, Chile to not beat Brazil and most importantly, the match against Bolivia is a must-win, and they need to be flawless against Venezuela too.
Who will have to do it for Colombia vs Bolivia and Venezuela?
The squad is commanded by Luis Díaz. El guajiro earned a transfer to Liverpool in January and has settled in without any problems at one of the strong candidates for the Champions League. They are without Yerry Mina and Radamel Falcao, who both have to miss this game due to injury, but Carlos Cuesta, who left a great impression in the Colombia matches last October, is back from injury and will surely feature as centre back. Familiar faces like James Rodríguez, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and David Ospina are all expected to start as well.
At first sight, Colombia’s schedule for this international break seems doable. Bolivia have collected 15 points so far, but only two of them came outside 3600 metres La Paz, so in hot and humid Barranquilla little is expected from them. Venezuela are bottom of the group with ten points, but Colombia have a bit of rivalry with the neighbours and barely ever have an easy game against arguably the worst team in the South American qualification tournament. On top of that, Venezuela signed a familiar face as their new manager with José Nestor Pékerman.
For six years Pékerman was in charge of Colombia and they were the best days in recent history. Pékerman lead them to two World Cups, but the people in charge of the federation were never really happy with the way he managed things and didn’t want to extend his contract. The Argentinian manager and the federation didn’t end on good terms, so the Argentinian manager will get his chance for revenge here.
But before that becomes an issue, Colombia first need to get the full three points against Bolivia and hope Chile don’t beat Brazil to remain in contention for the World Cup.
Colombia vs Bolivia, Thursday, March 24, 6:30pm in Barranquilla.