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The Colombian side arrived at USA '94 riding on the crest of a wave. Brazilian legend Pele had tipped them as the team he believed would claim the Jules Rimet Trophy, and they certainly were forecast as one of the favourites.
Los Cafeteros had been dominant in qualifying for the tournament, conceding just two goals in six qualifiers as they emerged unbeaten from Group 1 of South American qualifying. Their piece de resistance came on September 5, 1993, as they decimated Argentina in Buenos Aires, stunning the El Monumental stadium with a 5-0 win.
This was a side that could adapt tactically and knew how to play. They liked to play a short passing game centered around playmaker Carlos Valderrama and looked to exploit the quick, tricky striker Faustino Asprilla and Adolfo Valencia, fresh from winning the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich.
But they could also mix it up when necessary, with a number of powerful players such as Freddy Rincon, John Harold Lozano and Leonel Alvarez, while the tragic defender Andres Escobar was an intelligent reader of the game at the heart of the back line.
Certainly, had the tournament rolled around a year earlier, they'd have been contenders. But, quite simply, USA '94 arrived at exactly the wrong time for Colombia.
Valderrama was recovering from injury, Asprilla was exhausted after a long season at Parma, and Freddy Rincon, then of Palmeiras, was out of form. Additionally, right-back Chonto Herrera found out two days before the United States match that his brother had died, while keeper Rene Higuita was in prison.
Additionally, as the tournament progressed, death threats were forthcoming for some players, as reported in the excellent ESPN documentary The Two Escobars.
They opened with a 3-1 defeat to a Gheorghe Hagi-inspired Romania, goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba having endured a personal nightmare, before being shocked in their second game by the hosts, losing 2-1, with Escobar scoring an own goal.
In their final group outing they beat Roy Hodgson's Switzerland 2-0 but it wasn't enough; in a group where three sides went through to the knockout stages, the South Americans finished bottom.
One week after their exit, Escobar would be shot dead in Medellin, placing Colombia's on-field shortcomings into context.