Colombia were coming into the 1990 World Cup qualification as an emerging force to be reckoned with in South America. Having performed modestly in most recent qualifications and never really come close to qualifying, there were clear signs over the last couple of years indicating that this team had improved vastly and become a real contender for a place in the World Cup.
The man deservedly credited for this turn of fortunes, was manager Francisco “Paco” Maturana (1987 – ). A dentist by profession, Maturana had brought new ideas to the national team and in a short time managed to develop a new style for La Tricolor. His philosophy was that of a distinctly possession-based game, focussing on short passing and keeping the ball within the team, that evidently suited well to his current crop of players and enchanted the home audiences. To all luck, Maturana also had available a playmaker who proved to be the perfect fit to this possession-based football, Carlos Valderrama (Montpellier). The main idea was to keep the ball within the team, and to take risks to retrieve it as soon as they lost it. In addition, Maturana introduced zonal marking and instructed his men to play with a high defensive line. Shaping the team after such ideas, Maturana also built his team around players from mainly one club, Atlético Nacional, which also helped building a strong, cohesive team unit. It should of course be added that Maturana doubled up as manager at both club and national team levels.
Maturana’s reign had almost brought instant success, leading Colombia to 3rd place in the 1987 Copa America. They had bowed out in the group stage of the most recent edition of the cup played during summer of 1989, but were again able to compete with the best. Whereas nations like Peru, Chile and Paraguay had qualified for recent World Cups in 1982 and 1986, Colombia had not qualified since 1962, and in recent editions been far behind both the best and the second-best teams in South America. It was apparent to everyone, however, that this was a team that had improved much lately under Maturana and whose success was increasingly growing.
24.06.1989: USA 0-1 Colombia
Line-up: Higuita – Wilson Pérez, Perea, Escobar, Gilardo Gómez – Álvarez, Hoyos, Redín, Valderrama – Angulo, Iguarán
27.06.1989: Colombia 4-0 Haiti (neutral ground in Miami, USA)
Goals: Tréllez, Iguarán, Valderrama, de Ávila
Line-up: Higuita – Wilson Pérez, Perea, Escobar, Gilardo Gómez – Álvarez, Hoyos, Redín (García), Valderrama – Tréllez (de Ávila), Iguarán (Hernández)
03.07.1989: Colombia 4-2 Venezuela (neutral ground in Salvador, Brazil)
Goals: Higuita (pen), Iguarán 2, de Ávila
Line-up: Higuita – Wilson Pérez, Perea, Escobar, Hoyos – Álvarez, Gabriel Gómez, Redín (García), Valderrama – Angulo (de Ávila), Iguarán
05.07.1989: Paraguay 1-0 Colombia (neutral ground in Salvador, Brazil)
Line-up: Higuita – Wilson Pérez, Perea, Escobar, Villa – Álvarez, Gabriel Gómez (Angulo), Redín, Valderrama – Tréllez (de Ávila), Iguarán
07.07.1989: Brazil 0-0 Colombia
Line-up: Higuita – Wilson Pérez, Perea, Escobar, Hoyos – Álvarez, Gabriel Gómez, Redín, Valderrama – Hernández (Angulo), Iguarán (Cabrera)
09.07.1989: Colombia 1-1 Peru (neutral ground in Recife, Brazil)
Line-up: Higuita – Wilson Pérez, Perea, Escobar, Hoyos – Álvarez, Gabriel Gómez, Redín (García), Valderrama – Angulo, Iguarán (de Ávila)
06.08.1989: Uruguay 0-0 Colombia
Line-up: Higuita – Wilson Pérez, Perea, Escobar, Villa – Álvarez, Ricardo Pérez, Redín (Fajardo), Valderrama – Galeano, Hernández (Usuriaga)