A History of Colombia’s World Cup Campaigns

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 28: James Rodriguez of Colombia celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at Maracana on June 28, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Prior to 1990, Colombia’s World Cup history was very forgettable. They were knocked out in the group stage in 1962 and eliminated in the round of 16 in 1990, despite a solid group stage performance. However, ahead of the 1994 World Cup things seemed different. Colombia had finished third at the 1993 Copa America and fourth in 1991. On top of this, they also excelled in qualification, winning their group and defeating Argentina two times in the process, one of which was a 5-0 demolition away. This Colombian team were serious contenders and many people had exceedingly high expectations of them.

Colombia’s (In)famous World Cups

Opening Match Against Romania

Colombia as a nation was in turmoil around this time. The war on drugs had only started a year earlier in 1993 and civil unrest was highly prevalent. The World Cup was one of few times where Colombia felt somewhat unified and could have something to celebrate. However, this sense of joy and optimism quickly dwindled when they lost 3-1 to Romania. With two games remaining, though, all hope was far from lost. Their next opponents were the hosts United States and despite Colombia losing to Romania, they were still the clear favourite.

The United States and Switzerland Clashes

The United States took the lead in the 35th minute through a ridiculously unfortunate own goal by Andres Escobar. However, the consequences of that own goal would be far from ridiculous. The game remained 1-0 until half time, but in the 52nd minute, the United States doubled their lead and all hope was lost for Colombia, despite them scoring a late consolation goal. Their 2-0 win against Switzerland in their last game was irrelevant. This World Cup was over for Colombia.

Andres Escobar’s Tragic Death

On July 1st, Escobar spent the night out in Medellin, starting by going to a bar. After staying there for a while they decided to leave and go to a liquor store. Shortly afterwards, they went to a nightclub where they eventually split up. At around 3am, he was alone in a car park when three men appeared all of a sudden. An argument then ensued, which subsequently lead to Escobar being shot six times. On top of Escobar losing his life and his relatives losing a family member, it was a huge loss for the Colombian national team and Colombia as a nation. In the 1998 World Cup, Colombia were hoping to seek redemption from their past trials. However, they got nothing of it. Just like in 1994, they only gained three points and were eliminated in the group stage.

Colombia’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Group Stage

Colombia had to wait 16 more years until 2014 until they finally made another appearance at the World Cup. In 2014, they were still seeking redemption after what happened in 1994 and this time around, they would get it. They charmed the entire world with their exquisite and entertaining football, cruising through the group stage, defeating Greece 3-0, the Ivory Coast 2-1 and Japan 4-1. In the round of 16, they were drawn to face a Uruguay side that had defeated both Italy and England in the group stage. The last time Colombia faced Uruguay at a World Cup was in 1962, where Uruguay won 2-1.

Round of 16, Quarter-Finals and Redemption

This time around, it was Colombia’s and James Rodriguez’s turn to shine. In the 28th minute, they took the lead through a strike by James Rodriguez that won the Puskas Award later in the year, a stunning volley from outside the penalty area. Rodriguez scored yet again later in the game and Colombia won comfortably 2-0. However, their journey came to an end in the quarter-finals where they lost 2-1 to Brazil. Being eliminated in the quarter-finals would be considered a massive failure for some nations, but certainly not for Colombia. It was their best-ever World Cup performance, where they experienced the success they should’ve experienced in 1994. They won the FIFA Fair Play Award and set the world on fire with some of the most entertaining football ever played.


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