We’re now onto team 13 on this journey, so a few bookmarks for previous teams might be helpful. Feel free to begin the Aventuras Américas journey at the job hunt stage, club 1 Puerto Montt, club 2 Universidad Católica, club 3 New York Red Bulls, club 4 River Plate Montevideo, club 5 América de Cali, club 6 Alianza Lima, club 7 Puebla FC, club 8 Palmeiras, club 9 FC Edmonton, club 10 Newell’s Old Boys,club 11 Godoy Cruz, club 12 Flamengo or our first national team Brazil.
In somewhat of a surprising move, Robinho Lazaró stepped down as manager of newly crowned World Champions Brazil and headed back to his home nation Colombia in August 2042. Lazaró’s new and sole remaining objective on his Aventuras Américas journey was to try and win Copa America, so when Colombia came calling he thought this would represent a fun new challenge.
Colombia suffered a second-round defeat against Croatia in the World Cup second round. However, they are 11th in the world rankings, which statistically makes them the third-best side in South America.
Meet the Colombia squad in 2042
The best Colombian player in 2042 is probably Liverpool midfielder Johan Rubio, who’s scored 17 in 69 caps for his country. Pushing him close are exciting 22-year-old Benfica defender Leonel Gil and Jhohan Rodríguez, who just moved to Atlético from Corinthians.
The best attacking threat looks to be Camilo Villamizar, who just joined Sevilla after scoring 82 in 165 for Hoffenheim. He’s joined by first-time call-up Giovanni del Castillo, who was Lazaró’s former loanee at Godoy Cruz. While the captain is Colombia’s all-time most capped player Barcelona goalkeeper Miguel Gutiérrez.
Exciting young talents include Tigres centre-back Jimmy Garcés, América de Cali striker Santiago Bolanos, who’s wanted by Barcelona and scored on his international debut against Spain, Bayern midfielder Andrés Posada and uncapped 18-year-old Atlético midfielder Diego Giraldo. But the most exciting young prospect in Colombia may be América de Cali right-back Luis Caballero, who was injured for Lazaró’s first games in charge.
Other players to keep an eye out for include midfielder Yair Villamizar, winger Ronald Castillo, attacking midfielders Maicol Villa and Julian Rueda, and Juventus midfielder Sergio Suárez.
Having made his return to Colombia, Lazaró through this was the ideal opportunity to revive his famous La Caosbala formation (below). However, if that didn’t work, which was quite likely!, he was also considering playing either a narrow 4-3-1-2 or a wider 4-3-3 that he’d used throughout his career.
Colombia’s world tour of friendlies
The Colombian FA seemingly had some kind of deal on around-the-world flights. Lazaró’s time in charge of Colombia began with a friendly in Cameroon, which Colombia bossed and Castillo scored a screamer to nick a 1-0 win. That was quickly followed by a 4-1 win in Syria and wins in Australia, The Gambia before losing in México. Those games saw 10 players make their Colombia debuts as Lazaró injected new blood into the national setup.
World Cup Qualifiers
Lazaró’s first competitive game for Colombia came more than a year into his role, in October 2043. Their World Cup 2046 qualification campaign began by hammering Chile 4-1, led by a goal and two assists by Rubio, before an impressive 1-1 in Brazil that they were unlucky not to win. And the good start continued with a 2-0 win over Bolivia, a 2-1 win in Ecuador and a 1-0 win over Peru despite battering them. Lazaró had transitioned to a 4-2-4 formation, which led to their best performance yet as they defeated Argentina 2-1 with goals from Bolanos and a late winner by substitute Rueda.
Copa América 2044
That strong start to the World Cup qualifiers enabled Lazaró to build towards Copa America 2044 in Paraguay. Colombia have only ever won the competition twice, but the most recent was in 2032 and they were runner-up last time out in 2040.
On the day of his 60th birthday, Lazaró named a squad of:
Goalkeepers: Miguel Gutiérrez (37, Barcelona), Oscar Ramirez (27, Flamengo), Edwin Bolanos (27, Atletico Goianiense)
Right-backs: Leonel Gil (24, Benfica), Jhohan Rodríguez (29, Atlético)
Centre-backs: Jimmy Garcés (20, Porto), Andrés Posada (23, Real Madrid), Juan José Benítez (24, Club Léon), Joaquín Hurtado (25, Cuiabá)
Left-backs: Juan Vargas (27, Real Madrid), Jolvis González (31, Rapid Wien)
Midfielders: Johan Rubio (29, Liverpool), Yair Villamizar (33, Cruz Azul), Miller Duarte (23, Liverpool), Julian Rueda (31, Bordeaux)
Forwards: Camilo Villmizar (31, Sevilla), Juan Carlos Garcíá (28, Monaco), Ronald Castillo (29, Tigres), Santiago Bolanos (23, América de Cali), Giovanni del Castillo (27, Tigres), Maicol Villa (34, Lille), Sergio Suárez (34, Juventus), Jimmy González (27, Lazio)
Copa América group
Colombia were named in Group A alongside Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru. They started slowly, conceding early against Peru but fired back to win 3-2 led by a Castillo hat-trick. Next up was hosts Paraguay and Suárez missed a penalty after five minutes but scored a free-kick a minute later then laid on a second for Posada. They fully dominated and won 3-0 with 3.46 xG, before another wasteful 2-0 win over Costa Rica, in which they had 29 shots, 14 on target and 3.36 xG, confirmed qualification.
Lazaró fully rotated the side to face Ecuador and goals from del Castillo and Villa sealed a 2-2 draw. And the group concluded with a big clash as Lazaró’s current nation faced his former and nation and world champions Brazil. They started terribly, conceding twice in a minute then three down inside minutes then fought their way back into the game with C Villamizar and Bolanos goals. But Brazil scored with every attack and won 4-2 despite having less shots and less xG, with a goal and two assists from Lazaró’s favourite Júlio David. And that saw Colombia drop to a third-place finish in the group.
Copa América quarter-final
The quarter-final saw Colombia take on México, who finished second in Group B. The Mexicans obviously scored their first shot, because it would be unfair if they didn’t. And Colombia absolutely dominated the game but, as usual, didn’t make their chances count. That was until they finally scored through C Villamizar after 81 minutes. And that took the game straight to penalties.
Based on the flow of the game, it was inevitable that Mexico would win it. And they did, 5-3 on penalties after Y Villamizar missed Colombia’s fourth.
Brazil also lost in the quarter-finals, going out to Uruguay 2-1. In the semis, México beat Argentina 3-1 and Uruguay beat Peru 1-0. Peru finished third, beating Argentina on penalties, before México beat Uruguay 5-2 in the Final to lift their first-ever Copa América.
Lazaró was gutted at the unlucky exit to México, and reflected on a tale of missed chances throughout the Copa América competition. If he was honest, he was bored of international management but, either way, the decision was taken out of his hands as the Colombian FA sacked him at the end of the tournament!
Lazaró decided to take a bit of time away from football to consider his options and make up his mind about what to do next in his career. With the domestic side of his Aventuras Américas challenge long-completed, he now had an eye on moving to Europe to further strengthen his managerial reputation.
Join us next time for a review of Lazaró’s time in the Américas!