Next Up: Five Things to Know About Colombia

Five Things to Know: #USAvCOL

In the first match of this summer’s Copa America Centenario, Group A heavyweights – the U.S. Men’s National Team and Colombia – meet in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday, June 3, at 6:30 p.m. PT (FS1, Univision, UniMAS, UDN). Before the action gets underway, here are five things to know about Los Cafeteros.

Los Cafeteros Soccer History

The 1990s were arguably the most successful period Colombian soccer has experienced. Los Cafeteros qualified for all three FIFA World Cups during the decade (1990, 1994, 1998), advancing to the Round of 16 in 1990. From there, however, Colombia hit a World Cup draught. They failed to qualify for the 2002, 2006 and 2010 tournaments.

Los Cafeteros returned to the World Cup in 2014, eager to make up for lost time. Colombia won all three of its group stage matches, knocking off Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan with ease while making a name for itself with its choreographed goal celebrations. The Colombians made their first appearance in the quarterfinals, where they fell to host country Brazil.

Colombia has had success in Copa America. Los Cafeteros won the tournament in 2001, and have placed third and fourth twice. In last year’s Copa America, Colombia’s only win in the group stage came against Brazil, where it scored its lone goal of the tournament. Los Cafeteros advanced out of their group, but were eliminated in their next match by Argentina in a penalty shootout.

Colombia vs. MNT

The U.S. MNT has faced Colombia 17 times, first playing in 1961. The MNT hasn’t had great success, as its record against them is 3-10-4. Its last win was a 3-0 victory on Mar. 9, 2005, in Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif. The last time these teams met was Nov. 14, 2014, at Craven Cottage in London, where Colombia pulled out a 2-1 victory with a game-winning goal in the 87th minute.

The two have played each other in significant tournament games before, inclduing a FIFA World Cup and multiple Copa Americas. In the 1994 World Cup held in the United States, the MNT famously defeated one of the tournament favorites 2-1 in its second group stage match. 

A year later at the 1995 Copa America in Uruguay, the MNT and Colombia both made it to the semifinals. Each lost their respective match, so they played with third place on the line. Los Cafeteros won handily, 4-1, and the MNT left Uruguay in fourth, its best ever Copa America finish.

The two shared a group at the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela. They squared off in the final group match playing for pride, as no matter the outcome both weren’t going to advance. Colombia claimed a 1-0 win, sending the MNT to a 12th place finish.

Additionally, Alejandro Bedoya’s father and grandfather played soccer professionally in Colombia.

Ready for the Centenario

Coming into the Centenario, Colombia is in solid form. Los Cafeteros are No. 4 in the FIFA /Coca-Cola World Ranking and are currently tied with Chile for third place in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying with 10 points through six matches.

After its tilt with the MNT, Colombia heads to Pasadena, Calif., on June 7 to take on Paraguay and finishes Group A play against Costa Rica on June 11 in Houston.

Who to Watch

Colombia boasts players from many of the world’s top leagues and is one of the Centenario’s most talented teams. In charge of its prolific offense are midfielder James Rodriguez and forward Carlos Bacca.

Over the past two years, the 24-year-old Rodriguez has become one of the game’s top offensive threats. He burst onto the scene during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, finishing the tournament with six goals, earning the Golden Boot for most goals scored and Puskas Award for most outstanding goal in the tournament. In total, he’s scored 14 times in 42 appearances for his country.

After the World Cup, he joined Real Madrid. He’s made 78 appearances for one of the titans of club soccer, netting 25 goals. 

Outside of Colombia, Bacca suits up for AC Milan in Italy. Heading into the Centenario, the Puerto Colombia, Colombia native looks the part of a dangerous forward. Last season for Milan, he scored 18 goals in 36 matches. He was effective in Colombia’s recent World Cup qualifiers as well, scoring three times in six outings. Stopping both of these players will be paramount if the MNT wants to leave Santa Clara with a positive result.

The Country and Culture                                                                             

With more than 46,000,000 citizens, Colombia has the second largest population in South America. Located in the northwest corner of the continent, it is the only country in the region with both a Pacific and Caribbean coast.

The Andes, the longest mountain range in the world, begin in Colombia. In addition, the country is home to a substantial portion of the Amazon Rainforest.

Colombia’s chief export is coffee, and it is one of the top five coffee producing countries in the world. Much of the country’s coffee is grown on its mountain slopes. Colombian coffees differ in flavor from region to region because the country contains so many unique microclimates.