Colombia interim coach Eduardo Lara is inviting back players who were alienated by ousted predecessor Jose Luis Pinto.
Lara, who until Tuesday was Colombia’s Under-17 coach, has less than
a month to prepare the senior squad for World Cup qualifiers against
South American leader Paraguay on Oct. 11 then Brazil away four
“The doors to the national team, as I’ve done for the youth teams,
are open to all players who think they’re able to contribute,” Lara
told Caracol Radio on Wednesday. “Some have said they don’t want to be
laboring on the team but I’ll talk to them to see if they will return.”
Defenders Ivan Ramiro Cordoba and Mario Alberto Yepes and goalkeeper
Miguel Calero — who were previously indispensable — were reported to
have clashed with Pinto during last year’s dismal Copa America
performance and were no longer called on to play.
Cordoba stated publicly that he’d remain off the national team as long as Pinto was its coach.
Pinto had invited Farid Mondragon to join the squad but the ‘keeper
declined, while striker Juan Pablo Angel was in touch with the ousted
coach but never called on.
Pinto’s reported testy relations with some players was among reasons
cited by the Colombian Football Federation for firing him on Tuesday.
The team had also suffered its first defeats in qualifying this month,
to Uruguay 1-0 and Chile 4-0.
Lara knows well most of the new names in Colombian football. Among
those who have passed through his youth rosters were Hugo Rodallega,
Radamel Falcao Garcia, Wason Renteria, Dario Moreno, Camil Zuniga and
Lara, 49, said he thinks Colombia has a good chance of qualifying
for the 2010 World Cup despite dropping from third to sixth in the
standings after eight games in the South American race.
Only the top four teams qualify directly to the World Cup while the fifth goes to a playoff.
Colombia hasn’t been to the World Cup since 1998.