Colombia have reasons to tame the Lions

LYON: Colombia could be forgiven for being extra motivated when they take on Cameroon in the Confederations Cup semi-final here today. 

The South Americans last met the African champions at the 1990 World Cup when the Indomitable Lions prevailed 2-1. 

That loss hurt deeply in Bogota but Colombia coach Francisco Maturana – who was also coach at the 1990 World Cup finals – refuses to regard this encounter as a chance for revenge. 

“The players here aren't the same, neither for Colombia nor for Cameroon,” said the coach, who is in his fourth spell in charge. 

“The two teams are totally different,” added Maturana, a qualified dentist who was also in charge of Colombia for the 1994 World Cup Finals when he resigned amid allegations of death threats over their poor performance which saw them lose to hosts US and exit in the first round. 

“The football of the past doesn't count for much now – the important thing is what's happening today.” 

The Copa America champions have proved themselves gifted in the technical department on this their Confederations Cup debut. 

Maturana's men were unlucky to lose to France 1-0 in their opening match, the damage inflicted by a questionable late penalty, but they got back on track beating minnows New Zealand and then Japan 1-0. 

Playmaker Giovanni Hernandez said he felt like crying after he capitalised on an error by the Japanese defence to get the second half winner. 

“Getting through to the semis has strengthened our mental resolve to get the best result,” said the 27-year-old Deportivo Cali player. 

He predicted: “Colombia will essentially be relying on technical quality to contain the phsyical nature of Cameroon. 

“We can't be thinking about what we've done up to now, we just have to give our all to ensure we get the best result possible.” 

After a clean bill of health was issued for all his key players Maturana has the luxury of fielding a full strength side as both Inter Milan's Ivan Cordoba and the pacey Elson Becerra had to sit out the last game due to suspension. 

Not many, meanwhile, would have predicted before the competition started that it would be Cameroon and not world champions Brazil topping Group B. 

But German coach Winfried Schafer's team made it into the last four with a 0-0 draw against the US to add to their stunning 1-0 defeat of an out-of-sorts Brazil at the Stade de France, and a victory over Turkey by the same margin. 

Already, the African champions showing here has gone some way to restore their wounded pride incurred after their first round elimination at the World Cup – a far cry from 1990 when they made it through to the quarter finals. 

Up to now Cameroon have not conceded a goal – they'll be hoping Idris Kemeni maintains that fine record tonight. – AFP 

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