Reinaldo Rueda coached Honduras to a World Cup. He took Ecuador to a World Cup. However he is not going to have the identical honour together with his native Colombia. He has fallen brief twice — and after being sacked on Monday, a 3rd alternative would appear extraordinarily unlikely.
Rueda made his title practically 20 years in the past as Colombia’s youth specialist. He took the under-20s to 3rd place within the World Cup at that stage in 2003, earlier than touchdown the senior nationwide crew job mid-way by means of the qualifying marketing campaign for the 2006 World Cup. It was agonisingly shut. By only one level they missed out on fifth place, the playoff place — and historical past repeated itself for the 2022 version.
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Within the 2022 qualifiers, Rueda had extra time on the head of the crew, coming in after simply 4 of the 18 rounds when Carlos Queiroz was sacked. As soon as once more, Colombia missed out on the playoff spot by a single level — and as soon as once more, there are moments to look again on and grimace. Towards the top of the 2006 marketing campaign Colombia misplaced 3-2 away to Uruguay, their direct rivals. However even that will not have mattered had they managed to win the following sport, at residence to Chile. They drew 1-1, and the 2 dropped factors proved decisive.
This time the important thing second got here at residence to the direct rivals on this marketing campaign, Peru. Colombia had each purpose to consider in their very own superiority. In Rueda’s first sport in cost they gained 3-0 in Lima. On residence soil in Barranquilla, they battered the Peruvian defence, however couldn’t rating. Even this could not have mattered. However late on Peru launched a uncommon breakaway, and keeper David Ospina obtained his angles fallacious and let in a tame shot on the close to publish. Peru gained 1-0.
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Unhealthy luck? Maybe that was a part of it. However, on paper at the least, the Colombia squad appears a lot stronger. And this sport got here in the direction of the top of a rare run the place Colombia went seven video games with out scoring a single aim. It’s barely credible that this might occur to a crew with Luis Diaz (who performed in all these video games) in addition to the likes of Radamel Falcao, Rafael Santos Borre, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata.
Colombia, clearly, solely have themselves guilty. And there would appear to be an issue that goes deeper than Rueda. The glory second in Colombia’s historical past, one of the best World Cup they’ve ever had, was in 2014 after they reached the quarterfinals and James Rodriguez broke out as a worldwide star. There was a sense ever since that the crew is a hostage to James. Their 3-0 thrashing of Poland was one of many excellent performances on the 2018 World Cup. It was additionally the one time they might depend on a match James.
Extra not too long ago he has seldom been match sufficient to do himself justice, and doubts have even arisen over whether or not or not he stays related. Is he a disruptive affect, a reason behind dressing room rifts? Now that he has gone previous the age 30 mark, and has discovered himself in a footballing exile with Qatari facet Al-Rayyan, this might not be a query that issues Rueda’s substitute, whoever he is likely to be.
However there are many different issues. In 2016, Rueda took Atletico Nacional of Medellin to triumph within the Copa Libertadores. Since then, although, only one Colombian facet has managed to qualify from the group levels of the competitors — an appalling report for a rustic with, exterior Brazil, the largest inhabitants in South America.
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The undoubted proven fact that World Cup-bound Ecuador are outperforming Colombia — each at membership and nationwide crew stage — needs to be a serious trigger for concern for individuals who run the Colombian sport. The nation needs to be producing sufficient high quality gamers to keep away from dependence on the shape and health of 1 temperamental star.
With no aggressive video games for some time — the following version of the Copa America is in 2024 — there isn’t a speedy hurry for the Colombian FA to usher in a long-term substitute. They may, after all, herald a short-term caretaker to play some friendlies. These groups who’re attributable to face Ecuador within the World Cup — Qatar, Senegal and Netherlands are the group opponents — would possibly relish the prospect to observe in opposition to a facet from the same faculty.
However what do Colombia do long run? One candidate, though he isn’t free in the meanwhile, is Costa Rica nationwide crew coach Luis Fernando Suarez. He’s Colombian, did a fantastic job with Ecuador in 2006 and now has Los Ticos primed for a World Cup berth ought to they defeat New Zealand in June’s playoff.
Colombia may embrace their conquerors and tackle Ricardo Gareca, the Argentine coach who’s doing such magnificent work with the nationwide crew of Peru. An added attraction is that Gareca has a reference to Colombia, taking part in with nice success as a centre-forward for America of Cali within the late Eighties. He, too, is presently engaged as Peru should defeat both Australia or United Arab Emirates to safe a World Cup spot.
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And there’s the choice of Marcelo Bielsa, who finds himself on the want listing of a lot of South American nationwide groups after leaving Leeds United. It’s notoriously troublesome to barter with Bielsa, and his relationship with those that run the Colombian sport wouldn’t be easy. However the attraction is apparent. With Chile, Bielsa took over at a time when a splendidly gifted era was rising. Chile can not provide him something comparable this time, and nor can different rumoured suitors, Bolivia.
Colombia, although, can provide potential. Outdoors the normal high three of South American soccer — Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay — Colombia are the nation greatest positioned to make a critical affect on the worldwide sport. With its proliferation of city centres, and its massive, soccer loopy inhabitants, Colombia provides the formidable coach a gateway to footballing immortality. It is going to be fascinating to see who accepts the problem to show potential into achievement.