In its penultimate friendly in 2014, the Colombian national soccer team faces the USA in London on Friday and is looking to consolidate a highly successful soccer year.
Colombia’s couch, the Argentine Jose Pekerman, has initiated preparations for the next year’s Copa America which will be held in Chile, as well as for the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He is looking to build the roster around the group of core players, complemented by young newcomers.
The team completed its first training session in full squad on Wednesday. Among the 24 players called-up for the games against the US and Slovenia are three new faces. Expecting to make their debuts with the national team are: defenders Bryan Angulo of Bulgarian club Ludogorets and Daniel Bocanegra of Atletico Nacional, as well as goalkeeper of Independiente Medellin Leandro Castellanos. 5 other players have been called up for only the second time.
“The new players are young, but they already have some experience. They have to forget about being nervous, go out there and try their best to win. The winning mentality has to be part of this team for years to come,” explained the nation’s star James Rodriguez.
During Thursday’s press conference, Pekerman stressed the importance of friendly games as an opportunity for the players to get to know each other, build unity inside the group and grow as a team.
“The high point of these meetings is the work on the field but there is also the chance for tactical talks, video analysis, going over objectives. We live these days intensely as part of our preparation searching for a better future,” he said.
Additionally, Colombia’s coach made sure to address recurring doubts over the team’s defensive performance.
“What we need is a defensive remodeling,” admitted Pekerman before adding “all teams need to be renovated. Our defensive players have gotten old.”
When asked about the US team, the Argentinian coach said “They had a very good World Cup. They are a team with an aggressive and intense game; this is a very good test for us. [It will be] an experience for our new players.”
In a similar tone, James Rodriguez insisted that “these aren’t “friendlies”, they have to be taken seriously. We always have to go out to win.”
The US team is going through a similar stage. After a successful year, coach Klinsmann is looking to revamp the squad, without interrupting the balance between veterans and debutants.
“They [older players] have to help to get these youngsters to another level, it’s really their job and that’s what we ask them,” he said.
The US will be missing some important firs-team players, including Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Omar Gonzalez. Of all young players, pundits point out to Jordan Morris, Rubio Rubin and Bobby Wood as the most exciting talents on the roster.
Colombian soccer has had a very good year. The team led by coach Jose Pekerman climbed up to the third spot in the FIFA/Coca Cola World ranking and left a positive impression with their attacking-minded play and youthful enthusiasm.
At the centre of the good run was the summer World Cup in Brazil. Colombia surpassed expectations by winning its group with nine out of nine possible points, easing past Uruguay in the first knock out round and only narrowly losing to Brazil in the quarterfinals.
Brazil was the only country Colombia has lost to all through the year. Apart from the July game in Fortaleza (1-2), “Canarinhos” came out winners again in a friendly played just two months later in Miami (0-1).
Apart from that, Jose Pekerman’s side has won 7 and drawn 2 games, scoring a total of 22 goals in 11 games.
In their last friendlies, Colombia beat El Salvador 3-0 and Canada 1-0.
On Friday, Pekerman will have to do without injured Fredy Guarin, Radamel Falcao and Camilo Zuniga.
Other important players, including James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Carlos Bacca will be available for the kick-off.
Four days after the game in London, Colombia will play their last game of the year against Slovenia in the country’s capital Ljubljana.