Pekerman has World Cup scores to settle

Bogota: Jose Pekerman will be looking to erase the bitter memories of his last World Cup campaign when his talented Colombia team start the World Cup in Brazil.

Eight years ago, the respected tactician dreamed of leading Argentina to glory in Germany, emulating his trio of Under-20 World Cup triumphs in 1995, 1997 and 2001 with the Albiceleste`s youngsters.

Yet after a promising start to the 2006 finals, Argentina`s campaign ended in disarray, losing a stormy quarter-final on penalties to Germany before an ugly mass brawl broke out on the pitch.

It was to be Pekerman`s last game in charge of Argentina. He resigned after the loss amid a chorus of criticism over his decisions in the defeat, notably leaving a teenage Lionel Messi on the bench and omitting Javier Zanetti.

Spells in Mexican and Colombian club football followed between 2007 and 2009, before the 64-year-old was recalled from the wilderness to take over as Colombia`s national team coach in 2012. His side are in Group C with Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan.

Pekerman`s reign started slowly, with a 1-0 win over Peru in Lima followed by a loss to Ecuador in Quito.

Yet the rest of South America took note when those early results were followed by a 4-0 thumping of 2011 Copa America champions Uruguay.

Colombia built on that success to emerge as one of the most exciting sides in qualifying, their skilful Europe-based players thriving under Pekerman`s doctrine of stylish attacking football.

Inspirational striker Radamel Falcao, who is struggling to be fit for the World Cup, believes Pekerman was pivotal in helping the side reach their first World Cup finals since 1998.

"Without a doubt, Pekerman`s arrival turned things round for Colombia in terms of the team`s football, results and self-confidence," Falcao told in a 2012 interview.

"He tried to give us the necessary belief to go out there with freedom and play the kind of football that we`re used to.

"That means always trying to compete toe-to-toe whether home or away and seeking to win, but without throwing caution to the wind. We`ve become a more mature and balanced team."

Colombia`s rise is reflected in their position in the FIFA rankings. Before Pekerman took over, the Colombians languished in 35th spot. As of March 2014, they are in fifth.

Pekerman`s latest World Cup adventure is the latest stage on a colorful coaching career that began earlier than most after his playing days were cut short by a knee injury at the age of 28.

He was working as a taxi driver in 1978 when Argentina first lifted the trophy, before later coaching lower division teams.

He was hired as Argentina youth team coach in 1994, and within seven years had completed an unprecedented hat-trick of junior world crowns.

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