Carlos Queiroz was finally presented as the new coach of Colombia on Thursday in Bogota. The Portuguese has signed a contract with the South Americans until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The 65-year-old left his post as manager of Iran after the recent Asian Cup, having led the Middle Eastern country for eight years which included successive qualifications for the last two World Cups in 2014 and 2018.
Queiroz replaces Jose Peckerman in taking charge of Colombia, after the Argentina left his position following the team’s Round of 16 elimination to England at the World Cup last summer. Under Peckerman Colombia reasserted themselves in qualifying for the last two World Cups, having missed out in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
“For me it’s an honour, and I’m happy to have the trust of the federation,” Queiroz said at his unveiling in the capital. “First off, I intend to take care of the great tradition here that has grown larger over the years. From there, my mission is to improve in all facets. We are going to be demanding.
“My goal is to preserve the prestige, reputation and placement of the Colombian national team in the world and that will be my first priority. I want to thank all the fans in Colombia as well as the Federation for putting their faith in me. I hope to do the job as it is supposed to be done.”
Having arrived during an era in which Colombia has enjoyed a revival on the world stage, the well-travelled coach was asked about the status of some of the team’s leading players, including Bayern Munich’s former Porto star James Rodriguez.
“James, Falcao and Ospina are the soul of this team and I have to analyse their performances but when you start a project, the wise thing is to create a group around those players as they are heart and soul of the team,” Queiroz said.
“The most difficult region” for qualification
The former Sporting coach faces the gruelling prospect of the notoriously difficult 10-team South America qualification campaign for the next World Cup. The most recent edition of qualification for last year’s tournament saw Colombia secure their spot by just a single point, with just two points separating Argentina in 3rd place and Chile who missed out in 6th.
"I have many colleagues and friends who work with national teams," he said. "Everyone knows that this is the most difficult region for qualification. It's like winning half of a world championship. We have to prepare extremely well."
Queiroz is unlikely to be daunted by the task, given his vast and wide-ranging experience in the game. His latest post means the veteran Portuguese will have worked in the leading five of FIFA’s six continental regions.
Born in Mozambique, Queiroz has worked on the African continent as boss of South Africa, as well as stints in Japanese club football with Nagoya Grampus Eight and Asian national sides UAE and more recently Iran. Queiroz has also led USA club Ny/NJ Metrostars in 1996.
In Europe, Queiroz guided Portugal’s U20 side to consecutive World U20 Cups in 1989 and 1991, and went on to manage Sporting and Real Madrid, while also enjoying two highly successful periods as assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, during which time the Red Devils became European champions in 2008.
Colombia’s first match under their new boss is against Japan in Yokohama on 22nd March, in what is the first game leading up to this summer’s Copa America. Queiroz’s side have been drawn in Group B alongside Argentina, Paraguay and guests Qatar.
By Sean Gillen