Saransk, Russia: Colombia coach Jose Pekerman on Monday refused to set the 2018 FIFA World Cup quarterfinals as his team's objective, saying that qualifying for the knockout stage would be the first step.
Los Cafeteros made it to the 2014 World Cup quarterfinals in Brazil - their best-ever run in the tournament - where they lost 2-1 to the hosts, but Pekerman said this year would be a whole different journey.
"The short-term objective is to get through the group stage, and this is not easy at all," the coach said at a press conference on the eve of their opening match against Japan.
"The team, four years ago, started in good form and improved as the tournament went on and reached the quarterfinals," he explained.
"This team still has to show this level. We respect all the World Cup teams. There are many favorites. We hope to do as well as we did four years ago, or better, but the truth is that we'll go match by match," he continued.
Pekerman also expressed his esteem for his first Group H opponent, Japan, which failed to win a match in the round-robin in 2014.
"We expect a very tough rival," he said. "(Japan) has good players with vast experience, although it is true that they've only played a few matches with their new coach, and he tried out two or three different systems."
After Japan, Colombia is to face Poland on June 24, followed by Senegal on June 28.