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World Cup '94 : WORLD CUP USA '94 / GROUP A PREVIEW : Colombia at a Glance

June 12, 1994|Grahame L. Jones

* COACH: Francisco Maturana.

* KEY PLAYERS: Carlos Valderrama, Freddy Rincon, Oscar Cordoba.

* STRENGTHS: Colombia comes into the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the world. It has been beaten only once in the last year and is scoring goals with ease. Striker Faustino Asprilla is said to be destined for World Cup stardom, but it was the more dependable Rincon who scored the most goals in qualifying play. Valderrama, South America's player of the year in 1993, controls the action from midfield and is extremely influential. Since taking over from 1990 goalkeeper Rene Higuita, Cordoba has given the defense far more confidence.

* WEAKNESSES: Colombia has never been as highly ranked or regarded in its history, and it is possible that the widely held expectations of winning the World Cup might unnerve the players. So much effort is put into the attack that the defense is occasionally left without help.

* WORLD CUP HISTORY: Two previous appearances. Record of 1-4-2. Best finish was reaching the second round in 1990.

* LITTLE-KNOWN FACT: Maturana, the coach, is a member of Colombia's constitutional assembly and was awarded the nation's highest honor, the Cruz de Boyaca, after the team's 5-0 qualifying victory over Argentina in Buenos Aires.

* OUTLOOK: As one of only two previous non-winners in the tournament with a legitimate chance of winning the World Cup (the other is the Netherlands), Colombia has the benefit of a relatively uncomplicated first round. It should dispose of the opposition without undue problems, but the real test will come if it reaches the semifinals where Brazil or the Netherlands are likely to stand in its way. Either match would provide a fascinating encounter.

* PREDICTED FIRST-ROUND FINISH: First.

ROSTER

No. Name Position 1 Oscar Cordoba Goalkeeper 12 Farid Mondragon Goalkeeper 22 Jose Maria Pazo Goalkeeper 2 Andres Escobar Defender 3 Alexis Mendoza Defender 4 Luis Fernando Herrera Defender 13 Nestor Ortiz Defender 15 Luis Carlos Perea Defender 18 Oscar Cortes Defender 20 Wilson Perez Defender 5 Herman Gaviria Midfielder 6 Gabriel Jaime Gomez Midfielder 8 Harold Lozano Midfielder 10 Carlos Valderrama Midfielder 14 Leonel Alvarez Midfielder 17 Mauricio Serna Midfielder 19 Freddy Rincon Midfielder 7 Anthony de Avila Forward 9 Ivan Rene Valenciano Forward 11 Adolfo Valencia Forward 16 Victor Hugo Aristizabal Forward 21 Faustino Asprilla Forward

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