When Colombia made it to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil it was their first appearance in the tournament since their 'Golden Generation' of the 1990's. As it conspired, this young team with the likes of James Rodriguez, Sebastian Arias, and Juan Fernando Quintero to name a few outperformed the squad of 1990 and made it to the Quarter-finals where they were unlucky to have lost 2-1 to hosts Brazil. They managed to qualify for a second successive World Cup in 2018 where they lost to England on penalties in the last-16 but it showed that Colombia were one of the best South America team's of the last decade.
Whereas the players in that 90's team played for a mixture of clubs domestically and abroad, the influx of Colombians over the last decade into Europe's top leagues has demonstrated a production line of young players that is ever growing. James has played at Real Madrid and now at Bayern Munich; Arias has signed for Atletico Madrid this summer; Carlos Sanchez has played his trade in Ligue 1, La Liga, Serie A and will make a return to the the Premier League with West Ham this season; and Bournemouth forked out £28m for Jefferson Lerma. So it begs the question, who else is coming through for Colombia that could represent their country at Qatar 2022? Here is my list of potential young Colombians we could be seeing in 4 years time.
Name: Juan Camilo ‘Cucho’ Hernández Place of Birth: Pereira, Colombia. Age: 19 Height: 176cm / 5ft 7" Position: Striker Clubs: SD Huesca (2017 – present) Apps 36 / Goals 16 Watford (2017) Went on loan to Huesca America de Cali (2017) Apps 21 / Goals 4 Deportivo Pereira (2015 – 2016) Apps 57 / Goals 23 Honours: Segunda Division Runner up (Promotion) 2017/2018 with Huesca.
At only 17 years of age Juan Camilo Hernandez or ‘Cucho’ as he is affectionately known as, showed that he was a natural born goal-scorer. Playing in the second tier of Colombian football he began his career with hometown club Deportivo Pereira and was thrust into first team action as soon as he was eligible to play. Having started 13 games (a total of 22 appearances in that first season) ‘Cucho’ showed the fans at Estadio Hernán Ramírez Villegas he was already going to be an important player for the team.
He scored only 3 league goals in that first season but his maturity and leadership was already there to see and for a player so young he was bound to lead the line the following season, he did not disappoint. In his second season he notched up and impressive 20 league goals in 30 starts and caught the attention of Primera A side America de Cali where he played for 6 months, mostly as a substitute, scoring 4 goals. This did not put off Premier League side Watford who signed the striker for an undisclosed fee and immediately sent him out on loan to play in Spain with SD Huesca. Work permit issues restricted him from playing in England.
Since that move he has progressed even further in his finishing and movement in and around the box scoring 16 goals in 35 league appearances and helping the team to promotion to La Liga. He plays off the shoulder of oppositions defences and isn’t the type of player to hold the ball or head the ball much but his pace is an distinct advantage. He continues to be loaned out by Watford and will spend the 2018/2019 season in La Liga.
Name: Carlos Cuesta
Place of Birth: Medellin, Colombia.
Height: 178cm / 5ft 8"
Position: Defender (Central)
Club(s): Atletico Nacional (2016 – Present) Apps 63 / Goals 0
Honours: Primera A x 1 (2017 Apertura), Copa Colombia x 1 (2016), Copa Libertadores x 1 (2016), Recopa Sudamericana x 1 (2017).
A Colombian League and Copa Libertadores winner, and he isn’t even 20, Carlos Cuesta is a centre back who has played an important part of Atletico’s Nacional’s success in the last three seasons showing composure and makes defending look like a breeze. An exceptional talent for a teenager, Cuesta got his chance during a Copa Sudamericana game away to Brazilian side Coritiba when his team were hit by a spate of injuries and he was sent on as a substitute to replace injured Daniel Bocanegra.
Soon after, teammate and defender Francisco Najera was show his second booking of the game and Cuesta was given the job of switching between right and centre back to cover. He came through with flying colours playing in a calm and collective manner way beyond his years, and for a 17-year-old it made people stand up and take notice. He is quick and intelligent when defending and reads the game very well. He isn’t known for his heading ability and need improving as he lacks height for a centre back but he is showing a lot of promise and could soon be called up into the Colombian senior squad.
Name: Nicolas Benedetti Place of Birth: Cali, Colombia. Age: 21 Height: 177 cm / 5ft 8" Position: Midfield (Playmaker) Club(s): Deportivo Cali (2015 – Present) Apps 130 / Goals 25 Honours: Primera A x1 (2015 Apertura)
Arguably the most talented player on this list and the one in which a lot is expected of him, claimed to be destined for great things since his teenage years, Benedetti is developing into a fine midfielder and is the star man at Deportivo Cali. With his head up playing behind the strikers as a ‘Number 10’, he suffers from being wrestled off the ball easily but makes up for this with his stamina as he never stops running, losing his marker looking for space, constantly aiming to deliver assists to his teammates in the final third. His passing ability makes this easier for him and it is no surprise when he is compared to James Rodriguez as similarities to when James was his age are there to see.
He made his debut with Deportivo Cali in 2015 and has become a mainstay with the club making over 100 appearances for them showing his creativity and technique, both domestically and during the 2017 Copa Sudamericana where he scored 4 goals in 4 games. Not only does he contribute to his teammates scoring but is able to put his chances away too with 25 career goals. He is reportedly gaining interest from La Liga and Serie A clubs but most recently a surprising big money move to the MLS with Montreal Impact was proposed, with Benedetti saying during a radio interview with Colombian outlet El Corrillo de Mao. Nicolas has admitted one of his dreams is to join Barcelona, the club where Benedetti’s idol Lionel Messi plays.
Name: Yeison Guzmán Place of Birth: Medellin, Colombia. Age: 20 Height: 166 cm / 5ft 5" Position: Midfield (Playmaker) Clubs: Envigado (2016 - Present) Apps 36 / Goals 5 Honours: N/A
Envigado have a reputation of producing some of the best players to come out of Colombia and the conveyor belt of talent hasn’t stopped with this diminutive playmaker already making his mark for his club. At only 20 years old Guzman is showing flashes of what he can do and comparisons with other former alumni such as James Rodriguez and Juan Fernando Quintero were always expected. A set piece specialist, technically good with vision and creativity Guzman has been drafted into the Envigado side since he made his debut for the club coming on as an 83rd minute substitute in a 2-1 defeat to Deportes Tolima in 2016. He is not defensively astute and his fitness is sometimes called into question, plus the fact he stands at 5ft 5 may put off suitors in Europe’s big leagues. A confident player he is seen as the next of the ‘El Equipo Naranja’s great playmakers, only time will tell how far he can really go.
Name: Jorman Campuzano Place of Birth: Tamalameque, Colombia. Age: 22 Height: 175 cm / 5ft 7" Position: Midfielder (Defensive) Clubs: Atletico Nacional (2018 - Present) - App 30 / Goals 0 Deportivo Pereira (2015-2017) - App 80 / Goals 1 Honours: N/A
A composed player who likes to dictate play in front of his defensive line and reads the game very well. He has good passing ability helping in the build-up of attacks and moving into right positions to receive the ball. Defensively he is disciplined with the ability to cover his teammates at the right time and wins possession consistently for his side. His shooting does need improving as he has only one professional goal to his name. He made consistent appearances at the start of his career for Deportivo Pereira but is now a regular in the Atletico Nacional midfield.
Name: Gustavo Carvajal Place of Birth: Padilla, Colombia. Age: 18 Height: 181 cm / 5ft 9" Position: Midfielder (Defensive) Clubs:
America De Cali (2018 - Present) – Apps 8 / Goals 0 Honours: N/A
A strong and dominant ball winner who plays with great maturity and confidence in the middle of the park, he is composed on the ball but lacks a good first touch and he needs to improve his range of passing to be more effective. However, he possesses a lot of power and athleticism which helps in is ball retention and of course as a holding midfielder his tackling is particularly good. He came through the America de Cali youth system and hopes to make more of an impact for this team having already appeared 7 times for his club this year