Coach Carlos Queiroz, during a match with the Colombian national team.Gabriel Aponte / Getty
The Colombian Football Federation has decided this Tuesday night to conclude the almost two-year cycle of Portuguese Carlos Queiroz at the head of the national team, after the team was heading for the shipwreck when the first four dates of the 2022 World Cup qualifying rounds. The atmosphere had become unbreathable after Colombia received nine goals in its last two outings, against Uruguay in Barranquilla (0-3) and Ecuador in Quito (6-1).
The parties "agreed to the non-continuity of the coach at the head of the Colombia team," the federation said in a statement, which has already begun the search for a new coach.
Queiroz (Mozambique, 1953), a football globetrotter, said goodbye to his first South American adventure with a balance of four games won, two tied and two lost in the eight official matches in which he led Colombia.
At last year's Copa América, the team showed hopeful signs, with plenty of group stage victories without conceding goals and a penalty shootout against Chile in the quarter-finals.
However, the caliber of those two recent knockout losses, unprecedented thrashing against direct opponents, sentenced the coach's fate amid a buzz of rumors about internal conflicts between the players.
Colombia did not lose two games in a row in qualifying rounds since 2009, and it did not suffer as bulky a win as the one Ecuador did two weeks ago since 1977, when they fell 6-0 to Brazil at Maracana.
Despite having started the qualifiers with a win over the weak Venezuela (3-0) and a draw on the hour against Chile in Santiago (2-2), Colombia, unrecognizable in its last two outings, collapsed in the table until the seventh place in a region where the first four get their direct ticket to the World Cup and the fifth classified disputes a playoff.
The playoffs go on hiatus until March, but the room for maneuver runs out.
On the fifth date, Colombia receives Brazil, the lone leader who has won the 12 points they have played, and then visits Paraguay, which is marching in the qualifying zone with six units.
Under the command of Argentine José Pékerman, Colombia grew during the last two World Cups with James Rodríguez and Falcao García as its top figures.
The team made a name for itself in Brazil 2014, where it reached the quarter-finals, its best ever participation, and in Russia 2018, when it fell in the last 16 on penalties against England.
In February 2019, the federation decided to entrust the experienced Queiroz with a service sheet that has included the benches of Portugal, Manchester United and Real Madrid.
The Portuguese came from qualifying Iran on two consecutive occasions to the World Cup, but lost in both cases in the group stage.
The European strategist was practically the last option of guarantees for a federation that spent months shuffling candidates, but was unaware of Colombian football or the tough South American tie.
The convenience of changing managers with the long and tight qualifiers underway is debatable.
In the freshest example, in the last edition both Brazil and Argentina changed their coach along the way, but with very different fortunes.
While the Canarinha stumbled since Tite relieved Dunga after six of the 18 dates, the Albiceleste continued to stumble until the last moment.
The Argentine team went from Gerardo Martino to Edgardo Bauza, and from this to Jorge Sampaoli for the last four games, but only ensured their classification with their victory against Ecuador on the last date.
Colombia itself has a rich history.
In the middle of the road to Japan and Korea 2002 he dismissed Luis Augusto García and recovered Francisco Maturana, a historical coach who had qualified the team to Italy 90. Pacho, as he is known, won the 2001 Copa América at home, but stayed outside the World Cup.
Four years later, in the qualifying rounds for Germany 2006, Maturana remained for the start on the bench, but only added one point in the first four games and was relieved by Reinaldo Rueda.
Despite a remarkable performance that allowed him to climb the table, Rueda drowned on the shore and ended up eliminated on the last date.
Also heading to South Africa 2010, the federation relieved Jorge Luis Pinto with Eduardo Lara, and the team was eliminated.
In qualifying for Brazil, Pékerman took over the reins after four rounds and was the only replacement who has been able to set course on the fly.