x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Colombia ready to surprise

Pablo Armero confident ability of talented young squad means they can go far in the Copa America.

Colombia start their Copa America campaign tonight against minnows Costa Rica and the 2001 champions are considered dark horses to win the tournament, thanks to the club form of some of their key players.

Colombia should qualify from Group A that includes hosts Argentina, an Under 23 Costa Rica side and South American whipping boys Bolivia.

With a squad including the Udinese pair Pablo Armero and Cristian Zapata, who helped the Italian club reach the Champions League, and Porto's Falcao and Fredy Guarin, who helped the Portuguese side win both the league and the cup, it is clear why Colombia like their chances in South America's continental tournament.

"There's no denying it. You've got Cristian Zapata, as well as Falcao and Fredy Guarin, who've both had an incredible season with Porto," Armero, a left-back, told fifa.com.

He said that Adrian Ramos of Hertha Berlin "is another who's been getting plenty of games here in Europe, and now's the time to use this good form to boost the national side. It's become a question of pride for us. That's because with the talent we've got we need to be doing better than we have done recently. I'm not trying to pile on the pressure, but we need to get it into our heads that we're capable of going toe-to-toe with any team in South America.

"I think the Copa America's going to give us the perfect opportunity to find out exactly where we stand at the moment."

The 2010/11 season was Armero's first in Italy since signing from the Brazilian club Palmeiras and he adapted quickly to Serie A football.

The unfashionable Udinese beat more-storied teams such as Roma, Lazio and Juventus to Italy's fourth Champions League spot and Armero's runs from full-back gave the team an extra dimension in the fast, attack-minded Udinese set-up.

"I didn't have any problems at all adapting to life at Udinese, said Armero, 24.

"The atmosphere was perfect: we're a young side but we want to achieve big things, just like we have done so far. I've felt comfortable from the off, so much so that I've even scored two goals this season. Can you imagine that? Me, scoring two goals!"

"I know that I'm now a better player than I was some time ago, and I think the same can be said for the other Colombians who are playing in Europe, too. And if we can all come together, relax and play our best football then we can spring a surprise. Pretty much like Udinese did this season."