Yesterday was July 29th 2017, it’s the anniversary for Colombia’s first and only International title so far – The date we won the Copa America 2001. It was one of the most controversy Copa America tournaments, but at the end the best team also won it.
The only senior tournament that Colombia should’ve host was the World Cup in 1986, but due to several problems in 1983, Mexico was chosen to host it at the end. Colombia has never hosted the South American championship, so you can imagine how happy were the fans when the CONMEBOL announced that the country will host the Copa America 2001.
Oscar Cordoba is the only goalkeeper to play a whole tournament without concede a single goal
Colombia never won any International title. They reached the 1975 Copa America final and lost to Peru, that was the closest tournament to win something. But for the 2001 tournament, Colombia was right after generation change, when players like Valderrama, Alvarez and Rincon retired from the national team. Still, Colombia under head coach Francisco Maturana, decided to bring its best squad in order to win the title for the first time in front of the home crowd.
The invited teams from CONCACAF were Mexico and Canada, who was supposed to make its debut. But three months before the beginning of the tournament, something went wrong. It wasn’t a secret that Colombia is one of the most violent countries in the world, mostly because of the Colombian-conflict between Colombian government and the left-wing guerrillas. Several car bomb and a kidnapped of the Colombian federation vice-president, Hernan Mejia Campuzano, by the FARC, made the CONMEBOL to think again if to move the tournament from Colombia or to suspend it. At first they decided to postponed the tournament to 2002, but it wasn’t possible because of the World Cup. At the end Campuzano was released after 72 hours and the CONMEBOL decided to continue with the tournament as planned.
Vice-president, Hernan Mejia Campuzano (right). His kidnapping aimed to cancel the tournament
This made the Argentine federation very upset because the didn’t feel secure to send the national team to Colombia at the time. In a very dramatic announcement, they decided to withdraw from the tournament and right after the Canadian federation did the same. Several weeks before the beginning of the tournament, the CONMEBOL had to find a quick solution and to invite two new national teams – At the end they chose Costa Rica and Honduras.
So without Argentina, with the “B” teams of most national teams, Colombia didn’t care about nothing but to win the tournament. The organization was amazing and the commity received praises from the CONMEBOL. The stadium which Colombia played was full. The group stage was played in Barranquilla and Colombia finished as the top of the group, beating Venezuela (2-0), Ecuador (1-0) and Chile (2-0), when striker Victor Aristizabal scored in every game, total of three goals.
finished as the MVP of the tournament and the top scorer, Victor Aristizabal
For the knockout stage, Colombia played at first in Armenia, beating Peru easily 0-3 in the quarter final when ‘Aristigol’ added another two goals with an addition of talented playmaker, Giovanny Hernandez. In the semi final Colombia met the surprise side of Honduras, who beat Brazil in the quarter final. The game was played in Manizales and the Colombians could feel their dream come true. Another goal from the machine Aristizabal, put him as the top scorer of the tournament, while earlier it was defender Gerardo Bedoya who scored a stunning goal. For the first time after 26 years, Colombia returned to the Copa America final.
Final match statistics
The final match was played at El Campin stadium in Bogota, full with 36,000 people who waited for Colombia’s first ever Int’l title. Colombia met Mexico and dominated the match, created chances, but couldn’t score. After a scoreless draw at the halftime, Colombia earned a free kick at the 65th minutes. Ivan Lopez crossed the ball inside the box and the captain, Ivan Cordoba, with a beauty header made it 1-0 for the home team. Despite Mexico’s attempts to equalize, Colombia managed to win and to lift the Copa America trophy for the very first time. Victor Aristizabal finished the tournament as the best player and best scorer with 6 goals, while goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba finished a whole tournament without conceding a single goal. Amazing!
Ivan Cordoba with the Copa America 2001
Unfortunately, two members of the squad are no longer live: Goalkeeper Miguel Calero, who died in 2012 after suffering from a thrombosis in his left arm and Elson Becerra who was murdered in Cartagena back in 2006.
Here you can watch all the goals of Colombia in the tournament