The World Cup in Qatar is already a failed episode for the Colombian National Team. He will not go, he will not be at the party this end of the year. There is nothing to do. But you can’t waste time on more regrets, because we have to start designing the future, the claim, with the aim of going, yes or yes, to the 2026 World Cup. That will be the immediate task of the leaders, who must choose, first of all, the coaching staff, so that it begins to structure its plan, its project, so as not to fail again.
Time, that’s the key word. It sounds like a lot, four years, but it’s not quite like that. The qualifying round for the next World Cup, to be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, starts next year, with a format yet to be defined. But there is no time to waste, especially for a National Team, hit by elimination, without a clear picture, without certainties about the coaching staff that will be in charge after Reinaldo Rueda’s announcement that his contract ended by not going to Qatar, and with the adversity of having a squad that needs renovation, as there are players who may no longer be in force or at the highest level in four years.
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The choice of technician, one of the key steps
The main thing, then, is to define the technician, the guide, the person in charge of designing the plan. There cannot, or should not, be an error, although it is a bet that will always be risky. For the last tie, Colombia had two coaches, the Portuguese Carlos Queiroz and Reinaldo Rueda, two proposals, two styles, one European, which failed, and one national, which also failed. So this decision, headed by the executive committee of the Colombian Football Federation, whose directors were re-elected for four more years, will be momentous. And ideally, if what you want is to avoid the mistakes of the past, it is that you do not spend your life thinking about who you choose. Hiring Queiroz took 7 months, so a lot of work and process was lost in the friendly matches after the 2018 World Cup in Russia, after the departure of José Pékerman.
They can’t be rushed either, that’s clear. Julio Comesaña, current coach of Independiente Medellín and who was Director of Development of the Federation in 2011, analyzes that the main thing is precisely not to make hot and false decisions. But he clarifies that you can’t let too much time pass to execute either. His proposal is that we must begin to look more closely at the minor teams, which will be the ones that in the future must nurture the senior team.
“I think that in principle we have to start the sub 20 and we should think about a sub 23 because the sub 20 are still far from competing in qualifying rounds. There can always be some exception. You have to pause and let the emotional part stabilize so as not to make mistakes in decision-making. Not much time should go by before starting to work with the senior team”, says Comesaña in dialogue with EL TIEMPO.
The team left for the next coach
The second big step to take would be to determine which Colombian National Team is the one left to face the next tie, with which men, with what base. The player on whom the new project should revolve is Luis Díaz, the Liverpool footballer and who today is the Colombian player at the highest level, not only because of the League in which he is, the Premier League, and the club , who is a contender to win the Champions League this year, but because of his performance. He was the best in the Rueda era, with a great Copa América in Brazil 2021, although he did not exploit his full potential in the tie.
However, the great uncertainty will go through those who are no longer at the same level as four or eight years ago, the benchmarks who no longer weighed in this tie and who may not do so in the future. The coaching staff that is chosen must define who it is going to count on and what prominence is going to be assigned to them. For example, it is assumed that Falcao García, at 36 years old, is already finishing his cycle in the selected team. It will also be necessary to decide if James Rodríguez, who is already 31 years old and is still in limbo in the Qatar league, or Juan Guillermo Cuadrado, who is 33, or David Ospina himself, also 33, will continue to be the column backbone of the National Team, or if it will have to be renewed. The same thing happens with the forwards, who were a failed test, for the most part, in the last tie. That replacement is needed, it is needed.
“Now we have to rethink, look at which players are there who can follow the cycle and which ones can’t, bring in a coach who knows the idiosyncrasies of Colombian football, it’s not just bringing in.”
Adolfo el ‘Tren’ Valencia, the historic forward of the Colombian National Team who was in the World Cups in the United States 94 and France 98, analyzes that the choice of the new DT must go hand in hand with the choice of the players, determining who is for contribute. “Everything happens in life, that is not to be terrified, it is not the only team that has not qualified for the World Cup, this is a game where there is a winner and a loser, we had to lose, we all wanted to go to the World Cup, but we don’t know could. Now we have to rethink, look at which players there are who can follow the cycle and which ones cannot, bring in a coach who knows the idiosyncrasies of Colombian football, it is not just bringing in, we were wrong about that, it must be one that you know well, and if not knows, you have to surround him with 2 or 3 people who do know, and work day to day, push. We have to get the base for the Copa América (it will be played in 2024), and in the Cup look at which players are the ones who really should be, 28 or 30 to face the World Cup. The Cup gives a lot of opportunity to play games, get warmed up, look at the base”, says Valencia.
The Train, based on his experience in the National Team in the 90s, considers that you have to take full advantage of the players who are called, that if you are a striker in the club, bring him as a striker, without improvising and without demanding tasks which you are not used to. He thinks that was a mistake in the tie against Qatar. “We are already tired of squeezing forwards in positions that they are not used to, that a DT arrives that does not sacrifice the forwards, because here they put together systems where the forwards suffer and then we criticize them because they do not score. The technicians are stubborn. If they put me to play where I didn’t, I told them, “if they brought me to score goals, that’s why I came, not to chase anyone, they have to chase me”, I never accepted that from the technicians clowning”, he thinks.
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The 48-team World Cup, an additional risk
The next World Cup will have a novelty that is not a minor issue: there will no longer be 32 teams, but 48 classified, that increases the chances of qualifying for the World Cup in each confederation. For South America there are 6 direct quotas approved and a playoff, unlike the last round, when there were four and a half. That can be a double-edged sword and a trap you can’t fall into.
This is how Abel Aguilar, who played with the Colombian National Team in the World Cups in Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018, analyzes it. does a good job, we can go through problems and be suffering until the end. That this does not cloud us and block us, because sometimes it happens that you feel a certain comfort because more teams are going to qualify … ”, he warns.
His position is that we must begin to design a long-term plan that includes work in the minor categories of the National Team. A serious job. “Initially it is to recognize the situation and at what moment the National Team is, and not only in the seniors but in all the lower categories so that they serve as support for what is to come; the formative categories are the base of the processes, of the changes of generation. We must recognize how the National Team is in general and if it can do a job that lasts, not for a World Cup but that is sustainable, solid for many years and we are a power, as we have been working to qualify for two World Cups in a row (2014 and 2018) ” .
The great fear that is generated in the environment is whether the renewal or the transition period that seems necessary may last longer than expected. They are risks that are run. Colombia lasted 16 years without going to the World Cup after France 98. The transition was long and stormy. He had to watch the World Cups in Korea and Japan, Germany and South Africa on TV, three appointments, an eternity. Today there is a starting point, a base, with players who, although they did not have the best tie, are at the level and age to face the next one. In addition, there is a precedent for Rueda’s work with local soccer players, who already They had an approach to the selected team and could make the big jump.
“Hopefully the transition is not so long, the process and generational changes depend on how the minors work, it may be in the short term or not, because of what has happened in recent years, the processes in the inferiors do not have results , there is no solid base, suddenly we take a little longer. The base is key… Hopefully decisions are made as soon as possible, that helps the work. There are South Americans under 20 the other year, there are even under 15 and under 17, we have to focus on what is coming because many of those boys will go to clubs abroad and we have to follow up on them… So it is important to define the people who are going to be to the front”, analyzes Abel Aguilar.
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The formation of a base payroll, surely with several of the current players, will be the starting point, and to that base the players who deserve to arrive or remain will be added. These are decisions that will mark the way, what Colombia is going to play at, what its strengths will be. And, in the words of the Train, internal competition must be generated. “You have to bring players who fight among themselves, so that the one who is the best plays; The National Team is not about screwing, it is about having a good performance in the club where everyone plays, and that they are called by the level they have. Sometimes the one who is the starter relaxes, some know that they are low in level, but the technicians are afraid to take them out. That hurts. Whoever arrives, prepare himself because in the National Team you have to give one hundred percent. Colombia lost due to lack of attitude”.
The World Cup in Qatar starts in November, but for Colombia it is as if it were already in the past. His present and future will be to design the 2026 plan, choose the DT, implement the plan that he brings and work. There is no time to lose.
Editor of THE TIME