MX23RW : Thursday, September 20 23:54:49

FIFA World Cup countdown: Top 10 Colombian players of all time

As part of the countdown to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Sports Mole looks at the top 10 players in the history of Colombia.

While Colombia have struggled to live up to expectations in the World Cup, they have often impressed in the Copa America - a competition that they won back in 2001.

Along the way, they have produced a host of players with a mixture of flamboyance and brute power.

They qualified for this summer's tournament in Brazil in style, finishing only second to Argentina. Consequently, Colombian supporters will be hoping that their side goes better than their best ever World Cup showing, which they achieved by reaching the first knockout round in 1990.

Here, to continue our countdown to the major event, Sports Mole looks at the top 10 players in Colombia's history.

10. Rene Higuita (1987-1999, 68 caps, seven goals)

On the face of it, scoring seven goals in 68 outings is nothing to write home about it. That is, until, you consider that it is the international record of a goalkeeper!

Nicknamed 'El Loco', which translates as 'The Madman', Higuita was one of the best sweeper-keepers that the world of football has ever seen. He could sense danger, although it did famously backfire during Italia '90 when his error halfway up the pitch presented Cameroon's Roger Milla with an easy opportunity to knock Colombia out.

Not only did he score a total of 41 goals for club and country - largely from set-piece situations - the 47-year-old produced what has since been dubbed the 'scorpion kick save' in a friendly match against England at Wembley. Jamie Redknapp's attempted lob could have been easily caught, but the eccentric Higuita opted to throw his body forward, before clearing the ball with the soles of his boots.

9. Adolfo Valencia (1992-1998, 37 caps, 14 goals)

Colombia's Adolfo Valencia in action against Romania on June 15, 1998.© Getty Images

Bayern Munich had not won the Bundesliga for four years before they lifted the trophy in 1994, thanks in part to the goalscoring exploits of Valencia. In his one season in Germany, the striker ended as the club's joint top scorer alongside Mehmet Scholl with 11 goals.

He'd go on to play in a host of other countries and continents, including Spain, China, Venezuela, Italy, Greece, USA and his native Colombia.

In terms of international football, he was only capped on 37 occasions, but still contributed 14 goals, including two scored at the 1994 World Cup.

8. Arnoldo Iguaran (1979-1993, 68 caps, 25 goals)

Goals were Iguaran's trade, so much so that nobody has scored more for the Colombian national side than the now 57-year-old.

One of his most memorable strikes for Los Cafeteros came during the 1991 instalment of the Copa America as Colombia defeated a Brazilian side that would go on to win the next World Cup 2-0.

However, what is often held against Iguaran is the fact that he never plied his trade outside of Colombia and Venezuela. Some believe that to have truly proven his ability, he should have made a switch to Europe. Nevertheless, his status as Colombia's leading goalscorer of all time cannot and should not be ignored.

7. Leonel Alvarez (1985-1995, 101 caps, 1 goal)

Leonel Alvarez in action for Colombia against USA on June 22, 1994.© Getty Images

He may not have been the most creative player to have ever worn the famous yellow shirt, but his tenacious and solid approach to the game was greatly admired among Colombian supporters.

At club level, Alvarez turned out for 11 teams, with his most successful stint coming in the late 1980s at Atletico Nacional. During that time, he helped the Colombian outfit to win the much coveted Copa Libertadores.

He also retired in 2004 with vast experience on the international scene, having played in two World Cups and five Copa Americas. His solo goal for Colombia was scored during a friendly fixture against Ecuador in June 1987.

6. Radamel Falcao (2007-present, 51 caps, 20 goals)

Belgium's Axel Witsel and Colombia's Radamel Falcao battle for the ball during an international friendly match on November 14, 2013© Getty Images

There is every chance that by time that Russia 2018 comes around, Falcao will sit atop this list. Easily the most famous of the current Colombian footballers, Falcao moved to Europe in 2009 following an impressive stint with Argentine club River Plate.

Seventy-two goals from 87 outings with Porto followed, before he fired in a further 70 goals in 91 appearances for Atletico Madrid. Last summer, such statistics persuaded big-spending Monaco to part with a reported £50m to take the centre-forward to Southern France.

Cruelly, a cruciate ligament injury is likely to prevent Falcao from representing his country in Brazil. It will be a big loss for the Colombians, largely because the 28-year-old scored seven goals during their qualification campaign.

5. Mario Yepes (1999-present, 95 caps, six goals)

Mario Yepes in action for Colombia on February 09, 2011.© Getty Images

Dubbed 'Super Mario' for his defensive displays during his four-year stint at Paris Saint-Germain, Yepes is a stalwart of the Colombian national side. He was a part of the 'Golden Generation' side that broke up after the Copa America success in 2001 and remains a component of the current crop that is just as highly rated.

After leaving PSG in 2008 and a two-season spell with Chievo, Yepes linked up with Italian giants AC Milan, whom he helped to win the Serie A title in 2011.

At the age of 38, the current Atalanta centre-back has confirmed that he will retire from professional football at the conclusion of Colombia's World Cup campaign.

4. Faustino Asprilla (1993-2001, 57 caps, 20 goals)

Former Newcastle United striker Faustino Asprilla in action for Colombia on June 18, 1994.© Getty Images

Despite his well-documented antics off the pitch throughout his career, Asprilla is fondly remembered by the supporters of most of the clubs that he has played for. He initially made a name for himself in Italy with Parma, whom he helped to win two UEFA Cups and one UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.

His 1996 arrival on Tyneside coincided with Newcastle United's push for the Premier League title, but despite some memorable goals, he was unable to inspire the Magpies to success as Manchester United prospered. A year later came his crowning moment as far as the Geordie faithful were concerned when he scored a hat-trick during a Champions League clash with Barcelona at St James' Park.

In a Colombia shirt, Asprilla was a popular figure and is joint-second highest goalscorer alongside Falcao.

3. Willington Ortiz (1973-1985, 49 caps, 12 goals)

Some Colombian supporters that saw Ortiz play in the flesh, are adamant that he is the most skilful and creative player to have ever represented the South American country.

As a midfielder, Ortiz had a knack for scoring goals, particularly for his club sides. He spent the majority of his career with Millonarios, although he also enjoyed success with Deportivo Cali and America de Cali.

He captained Colombia on numerous occasions, as well as playing at three World Cups and a further three Copa America competitions.

2. Freddy Rincon (1990-2001, 84 caps, 17 goals)

Colombia's Freddy Rincon turns England defender Graeme Le Saux on June 26, 1998.© Getty Images

Such was the esteem in which Rincon was held by European clubs during the mid-1990s, he was signed by Real Madrid from Napoli in the summer of 1995, becoming the first Colombian to ever turn out for Los Blancos in the process. Yet the move didn't work out and after just one season, the striker headed for the Brazilian league.

That should not prevent Rincon from being so high up this selection, though. He could always be relied upon where his country was concerned, with perhaps his best contribution coming during the famous World Cup qualifying 5-0 thrashing of Argentina in 1993. Strikers Rincon and Asprilla tore the Argentine defence apart, ending the contest with two goals apiece.

While he may have struggled to produce the goods in Europe, there was no such problem for Rincon in South America. His most profitable stint came with Corinthians, who won the FIFA World Club Cup in 2000 - a tournament that also included Man United.

1. Carlos Valderrama (1985-1999, 111 caps, 11 goals)

Colombia's Carlos Valderrama in action against USA on June 22, 1994.© Getty Images

Quite simply, the afro-haired Valderrama was the symbol for a generation of Colombian football fans. In truth, the 52-year-old is still regarded as a hero, some 12 years after the point that he called time on his career.

While his choice of hairstyle is what most will remember first of all, Valderrama was a flamboyant ball-player who rarely put a pass wrong. He may also not have possessed much pace, but his ability to read the game from midfield meant that he was not often caught out of position.

South American Footballer of Year on two occasions, Valderrama was also named by Pele on his list of the best 100 living footballers of all time in 2004. Valderrama, who has appeared more times for Colombia than any other player, is the only representative from his country to have been selected by the great Brazilian.

Colombia will face hosts Brazil, Mexico and Cameroon in the group stages of this summer's World Cup, and you can follow every match live with Sports Mole.

Continuing our 50-day countdown to the tournament, we will be looking at the greatest players in the history of Costa Rica tomorrow.

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Who is the greatest Colombian footballer of all time?

Carlos Valderrama
Freddy Rincon
Willington Ortiz
Faustino Asprilla
Mario Yepes
Radamel Falcao
Leonel Alvarez
Arnoldo Iguaran
Adolfo Valencia
Rene Higuita
Carlos Valderrama
Freddy Rincon
Willington Ortiz
Faustino Asprilla
Mario Yepes
Radamel Falcao
Leonel Alvarez
Arnoldo Iguaran
Adolfo Valencia
Rene Higuita
Chelsea striker Samuel Eto'o in action for Cameroon on March 03, 2010.
Read Next:
Top 10 Cameroonian players of all time

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