Colombia has a big reputation to live up at the 2018 World Cup. The team was a break-out success in 2014, being defeated only by Brazil, with two players earning top rankings.
As CGTN’s Michelle Begue reports, Colombia’s success reminded many of its dream team in the 1990s.
Before James Rodriguez, there were Colombian greats like Rene Higuita, who performed jaw-dropping moves on the field. During a game between Colombia and England in 1995, the eccentric Colombian goalkeeper blocked a goal by diving forward and arching his back like a scorpion.
It was dubbed the “Scorpion kick,” and it became his signature move.
Higuita said he practiced for years waiting for the perfect moment to make the move – and some would said take the risk. “People say everything in football is written, until the crazies step out on the field, and we invent new things to do,” Higuita said.
His teammates in the 90s made up Colombia’s dream team: Carlos “El Pibe” Valderrama, the quick and agile Faustino Asprilla, versatile midfielder Freddy Rincon, and one of Colombia’s top goal-scorers Ivan Rene Valenciano.
Valenciano’s key scoring in matches against Argentina and Peru won him recognition in the qualifiers for the 1994 World cup. He said playing on the national team is a great honor, but has become a bigger challenge in recent years.
“What changed is that the qualifying rounds use to be played in one month, now they are played throughout three years,” he explained. “The process varies because you can’t always keep the team together and exactly the same. Every game is completely different.”
Valencianos’ teammate Oscar Cordoba played more than 70 games for the national team and is considered one of the greatest goalkeepers in Colombia’s history. Although he played a vital role in some memorable games, like the 5-0 victory against Argentina, he’s quick to praise the new generation of Colombian players.
“I think these boys have more experience than us when we went to the World Cup. We were Colombian players playing in the Colombian leagues, who were just beginning to explore World Class Football. These boys play around the world in huge stadiums. They have that experience. All they have to do is enjoy.”
According to these football legends, this year’s Colombia’s National team will have to practice and take risks to be great, but above all else, remember to love the game.