Republic of Ireland coach Vera Pauw admits her players “feared for their bodies” in their abandoned Women’s World Cup warm-up match against Colombia on Friday.

Midfielder Denise O’Sullivan was taken to hospital with a shin injury and the game was halted after just 20 minutes following a number of rough challenges, with the Football Association of Ireland describing it as “overly physical”.

Scans have revealed the North Carolina Courage captain has not sustained any fractures but the extent of a soft tissue injury has still to be discovered.

“It was something I had never experienced before in my 47 years being involved in football, not as a player, not as a coach,” Pauw told Sky Sports.

“It started lively, a good game, normal, and then the atmosphere built up to becoming over-physical.

“Then there came a huge challenge on Denise, a challenge not within the rules of the game and she was in awful pain.

“I went to the coach of Colombia and I said: ‘I need help from you, we need to calm this down. We all want to go to the World Cup’.

“The players were extremely upset and had fear for themselves. We are not a team who fear tackles or challenges.

“I took them away to calm things down, brought them to the bench. We discussed it and there was contact with the president and the CEO of the FAI.

“Collectively we knew it would not come right any more and if it went on we would put our players into a potentially-serious situation.

“We had a calm discussion with the ref and they called off the game.”

Ireland open their World Cup campaign against Australia and Pauw remains optimistic O’Sullivan will be fit.

“We have hopes she can make the game but we need to see, the first 48 hours are very important in these soft tissue injuries,” she added.

The Colombian Football Federation (FCF) released a statement which said, while the training of its teams was “framed within the rules of the game, healthy competition and fair play”, it respected Ireland’s decision.

“The Colombian Football Federation informs that the friendly match… between the Colombia women’s national team and Ireland was suspended because the Irish national team preferred not to continue playing when 23 minutes of the first half had elapsed,” said the statement from the FCF, which has been contacted for further comment.

The Republic of Ireland’s behind-closed-doors match against Colombia ahead of the Women’s World Cup was abandoned after 20 minutes after becoming “overly physical”.

The PA news agency understands the decision was made following some rough challenges in Friday’s contest at Brisbane’s Meakin Park, and that Ireland midfielder Denise O’Sullivan was taken to hospital and is set to undergo a scan after sustaining a shin injury.

A statement from the Football Association of Ireland said: “The behind-closed-doors game between the Ireland women’s national team and Colombia on Friday evening was ended after 20 minutes of play.

“The game, which was held in Meakin Park, Brisbane, became overly physical and it was decided, following consultation with the match officials, to end the game.

“The Ireland team then underwent a full training session to continue preparations for their opening game in FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, against Australia in Sydney on July 20.”

Vera Pauw’s Ireland team are also set to face Canada in Perth on July 26 and then Nigeria in Brisbane five days later, as the Girls in Green play at a major tournament finals for the first time in their history.

Carsten Ramelow believes Germany are being held back by a mentality issue as the former international warned: "Talent alone doesn't win you games."

Germany lost 2-0 at home to Colombia in a friendly on Tuesday – a third defeat from their last four matches.

The other game in that run finished 3-3, with Germany forging a late comeback to draw with Ukraine in a charity match.

Hansi Flick's side flopped in the 2022 World Cup, too, going out in the group stage, and Ramelow – a World Cup runner-up in 2002 – says German football as a whole has a mentality problem.

"I think there's multiple issues. That was not just about a bad performance in Qatar. The problems lie much deeper," he told Stats Perform.

"This is what aggravates everything. Having seen the game yesterday, I have only seen 15 minutes, that was enough. It shows which state the team has been in for weeks and months. Or maybe you have to say years.

"In that regard, we have big problems in Germany concerning youth players. I think [the team] lacks mentality. Talent alone doesn't win you games. Talent alone also doesn't bring you team spirit.

"People talk a lot about team spirit. Where is that team spirit? All those years, we have been saying that we have great talent. Maybe that's true but after this long period of suffering, you have to recognise that we have a lot of talent, but as I said, it lacks mentality, it lacks team spirit.

"We are not able to form a team, a unit. Be it Hansi Flick or any other coach, and you can see that in many Bundesliga teams. I think mentality is very, very important. A manager once told me something I will never forget: 'Passion is more important than skill'.

"You have to see how the players will develop. I don't know when it continues, in September or October. The ones that will be available then. There is quality but currently but at the moment this is not enough to compete with teams like [Colombia] or Ukraine and Poland."

Ramelow sympathises with Flick, and is unsure a change of coach would necessarily result in a change of fortunes. The pressure, though, is on ahead of Euro 2024.

"I think we all agree that the coach and his staff have an important role," he added. "We know what the business is like and the fact that the manager has to listen to a lot of criticism now is justified.

"He also accepts that. I see a lot of helplessness right now. No one in the interviews can say how things will continue. We all know we have good young players, which is fine, but to reach the final stages of an international tournament again is being considered very difficult. But what is the solution now?

"I feel like the manager had a lot of helplessness. He won't give up and it will go on as he said. He wants to prepare well for the next games. His task is to put a good team together and to bring back passion and mentality. You have to see a unit.

"Mentality is also a matter of character. A coach can barely train that. You either have it or you don't but he has to form a team and the results have to be good. I'm not saying anything new here, the business is tough. I think you could put anyone else on the touchline, it would be difficult for every coach."

Expectations are high that Jamaica’s four-member male squash team will secure qualification to the Pan American (PanAm) Games in Chile later this year, when they engage the PanAm Qualifiers in Cartagena, Colombia.

The team of reigning national champion Julian Morrison, Tahjia Lumley, Bruce Burrowes and Dane Schwier, is set to depart the island on Friday, for what is expected to be a highly competitive qualification tournament.

However, Morrison said the small team was ready to put their best foot forward.

“You can expect that we will be giving a hundred percent. We have put in a lot of work for the last two months to really prep ourselves for this.

“Initially we thought it would be an elevated court but finding out that it is very flat, so we are not necessarily at a disadvantage due to the altitude. It is hot over there, but we are coming from Jamaica, especially in this summer, we will be able to weather that storm,” Morrison said.

Burrowes concurred.

“We are going up against very, very big countries like America, Peru, these really big juggernauts of the western hemisphere. But we really think that we can take them on because ‘we little but we tallawah," Burrowes declared. 

First-timer Lumley also believes the team is mentally and physically prepared to give a good account of themselves.

“We have been doing a lot of doubles training together. We have also started training as a team on the physical side in the gym with our trainer, so we have been doing a lot of team bonding which is really good for us, something new but it’s also something that we hope to continue in the future,” said Lumley.

“A lot of work has been done on the mental side as well. Hopefully we can all put it together on each day that we go out there with our flag on our back and make sure that we make Jamaica proud,” he added. 

Meanwhile, Karen Anderson, president of the Jamaica Squash Association, is hopeful that the team will do well.

"It is going to be a very tough competition. Its fourteen teams vying for six spots and the main competitors, or the strongest contenders are from Mexico, USA, Canada, Colombia and Argentina,” Anderson said.

“Colombia, however, has already qualified along with Chile. But it is going to be extremely hard, but we feel that we have a chance, and the reality is, if you don't go, you don't get a chance to actually compete to qualify, so we made the decision to send our team and we are looking forward to seeing how they manage,” she noted.

Coach Rene Denis will meet up with the team in Colombia. 

Despite failing to secure qualification to the Pan American (PanAm) Games nor the World Championships, Jamaica's artistic gymnasts Tyesha Mattis and Kiara Richmon took heart from their respective performances at the just-concluded PanAm Gymnastics Championships in Medellin, Colombia. 

Mattis, Richmon and newcomer Mya Absolam, all produced credible showings in a highly competitive environment at the three-day championships which ended on Sunday but were unable to break into a coveted top 12 position.

The England-born Mattis, who was Jamaica’s standout performer at last year’s event when she qualified for the World championships, expressed some disappointment that she wasn’t able to repeat the feat, as she was firmly set on getting to the PanAm Games in Chile and the World Championships in Belgium, later this year.

She placed 32nd overall with an all-around total of 44.500, after scoring 12.867 on vault, 10.533 on uneven bars, 10.733 on the balance beam and 10.367 for her floor routine.

"I was happy with parts of my performances, but I felt like I put a little bit too much pressure on myself to qualify and so I didn’t do as well as I would have liked to,” Mattis said shortly after competition.

However, the 24-year-old did find a few positive takeaways that she hopes to improve on ahead of next month’s Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in El Salvador, when she is next expected to parade her skills for the island.

“I managed to complete a 2 1/2 twist off beam again after not putting that out in competition for over four years, so I am super proud of myself in that regards as I am proving to myself that I can do more than I am limiting myself to,” she reasoned.

“I am more than capable, and I just need to trust that my body can do the work and again, not putting too much pressure on myself. I work so hard in the gym and when I really wanted to put out my best, I made a couple mistakes.

“But I have to remember I’m only human and I can learn from some of my mistakes and so I am really looking forward to a better performance out in El Salvador in a couple weeks. Looking forward to trying some different routines there and putting out more of my skills as I know I have so much more up my sleeve and the more I compete internationally, the more confident I feel,” Mattis added.

For Richmon, who placed 36th overall with an all-around score of 42.866, just being able to represent Jamaica at the event, represents a remarkable achievement and another significant milestone in her budding career.

Her total includes score of 11.100 on vault, 10.233 on the uneven bars, 10.400 on the balance beam and 11.133 for her floor routine.

“I feel like I did my best with my performance at the championships, especially being that I only had two weeks to prepare. So, I am definitely proud that I was able to hit all four apparatus and getting to be here with the team,” Richmon shared.

With this being her first elite outing since 2019, the 21-year-old Fisk University student is eagerly looking forward to continuing her journey, as her unwavering determination, relentless work ethic and immense potential positions her as one of country’s gymnast to watch.

“It felt amazing, and this performance will definitely serve as motivation for me going forward, I just need to just trust my training and do not over work myself. I also need to have more confidence and belief in myself and hopefully on my next competition I can produce a stronger performance with cleaner routines,” the US-born Richmon said.

Meanwhile, Absolam, another England-born gymnast, had an all-around total of 39.533, after scoring 10.333, 10.033, 8.600, 10.567, on vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor, respectively. She placed 42nd overall.

On the male side, Canada-born Elel Wahrmann-Baker, was Jamaica’s top performer, placing 27th overall, with an all-around total of 72.301. Wahrmann-Baker had scores of 12.767 on floor, 13.067 on the pommel horse, 11.067 on rings, 13.100 on vault, 13.133 parallel bars and 10.167 on high bar.

Caleb Faulk placed 29th overall with scores of 12.300, 10.900, 12.400, 12.767, 11.9667 and 11.667 for an all-Around total of 72.001, while Matthew McClymont tallied 63.165 for 47th overall. His scores include 12.233, 9.133, 7.533, 12.733, 10.800 and 10.733.

Jamaica’s other representative Michael Reid only took on the pommel horse and parallel bars where he scored 11.933 and 12.467 for a total 24.400.


Jamaica’s ex-WBA world featherweight champion Nicholas ‘Axe Man’ Walters ended more than six years of semi-retirement with a dominant points win over Colombian Luis Diaz Marmol in Santa Marta, Colombia on Saturday night.

Returning in a weight class 14 pounds above his title-winning featherweight division, Walters earned the unanimous decision over local favourite Marmol in the eight-round super lightweight (140-pound) main event. The official scorecard read 80-72 and 78-74 twice in favour of the 37-year-old from Montego Bay.

“Marmol was very game but the overall experience and skill level of Walters was the difference,” Fightnews web site reported about the Panama-based Jamaican.

“He did not show much effects of ring inactivity as he was in complete control.”

With the result, Walters improves his ring record to 27 wins (21 kos) against one loss and one draw and the 29-year-old Marmol’s log dips to 19 wins (11 kos) against 17 losses.

Walters said recently he was encouraged to return to the ring by several trainers in Panama. He had been visiting the boxing gym to keep in shape but admits he “wasn’t really serious about fighting” until experts around the gym encouraged him to come out of retirement.

Walters became the first Jamaican ever to win a world boxing title at home when he beat Colombian Daulis Prescott for the WBA’s 126-pound belt in December 2012 at the National Indoor Sports Centre in Kingston.

Saturday night’s outing was his first since November 20, 2016, when he quit against Vasiliy Lomachenko after being dominated by the outstanding Ukrainian for seven rounds in Nevada, USA.

Walters had turned pro in 2008 after an amateur career that included bronze at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games and two gold medals at the Caribbean Championships in 2005 and 2006. Within a few years he became one of the world’s most exciting fighters of the lower weight divisions after defeating big names like Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan.



Jamaica’s former WBA Super world featherweight champion Nicholas ‘Axe Man’ Walters says he was encouraged to return to the ring by several trainers in Panama where he is based.

The 37-year-old is set to break a six-year layoff with an eight-round super lightweight bout this Saturday in Santa Marta, Colombia, against local fighter Luis Diaz Marmol.

In recent years, Walters had been visiting the boxing gym to keep in shape but admits he “wasn’t really serious about fighting” until experts around the gym encouraged him to come out of retirement.

“After sparring with other fighters here in Panama, my coach and other coaches asked me to come back to the sport,” Walters said.

“I was making it very difficult for the guys that I was sparring with, so everyone was saying I should make a comeback,” added Walters, who boasts a solid ring record of 26 wins (21 kos) against one loss and one draw.

The 29-year-old Marmol brings an aggressive style to this Walters bout and upset unbeaten Colombian prospect Diego Silva his last time out. Marmol has a ring record of 19 wins (11 kos) against 16 losses.

Originally from Montego Bay on Jamaica’s north coast, Walters became the first Jamaican ever to win a world boxing title at home when he defeated Daulis Prescott on December 8, 2012 in Kingston via a seventh round TKO. He will be fighting for the first time since 2016 but has been actively training for months.

Walters has also enlisted the services of well-respected manager Gabriel Barron as he returns in a weight class 14 pounds above his title-winning featherweight division. In his last bout on November 20, 2016, Walters quit against Vasiliy Lomachenko after being dominated by the outstanding Ukrainian for seven rounds in Nevada, USA.

Walters had turned pro in 2008 after an amateur career that included bronze at the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games and two gold medals at the Caribbean Championships in 2005 and 2006. Within a few years he became one of the world’s most exciting fighters of the lower weight divisions after defeating big names like Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan.

Aston Villa signing Jhon Duran has "all the desire in the world" to succeed at Villa Park after completing his move from Chicago Fire.

The 19-year-old striker's arrival was confirmed on Monday as he joined Unai Emery's side for a reported fee worth up to £17.8million ($22m).

Colombia international Duran enjoyed a successful debut Major League Soccer campaign, scoring eight goals and assisting three in 27 appearances for the Fire.

The former Envigado forward wants to replicate that form as he aims to make his mark on the Premier League.

"I have all the desire in the world," Duran told Villa's official website. "Lots of desire to work hard, give everything to the team and win. I'm hoping I can play soon.

"I'm a player that plays with a lot of passion, who is dedicated to the team, and a player that really wants to win always.

"I know it's the most important league in the world. It's the best league in the world, and I have all the desire in the world to get on the pitch and score that first goal."

Duran is said to have signed a contract until June 2028, and he is looking forward to the project under Emery, whose side sit 11th in the Premier League but just three points behind sixth-placed Brighton and Hove Albion.

"We have spoken; he said very touching words and gave me a huge welcome," Duran said of Emery.

"Now I can speak with him, and we can discuss everything to do with the project. It strikes me as a very good project."

James Rodriguez has signed for Olympiacos after terminating his contract with Qatar Stars League club Al-Rayyan.

The Colombia international joined Al-Rayyan from Everton in September 2021, a little over a year after he had joined the Premier League side, with Rafael Benitez having deemed the playmaker surplus to requirements.

James made just 12 league appearances for Al-Rayyan, scoring four times, and on Thursday the club confirmed the mutual termination of the 31-year-old's contract, enabling him to sign for Greek giants Olympiacos on a free transfer.

Olympiacos teased the arrival of the attacker, who claimed LaLiga and Bundesliga titles with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively, with a shirt featuring the number 10, before officially confirming the signing later on Thursday.

James starred at the 2014 World Cup, winning the Golden Boot and earning a switch from Monaco to Madrid, but he will not be making a swift return to Qatar later this year, with Colombia having failed to qualify for the tournament.

With Olympiacos featuring in the Europa League, James will be in line to make his first appearance in a UEFA competition since October 2019, when he played in the Champions League for Madrid.

Across his appearances in the Champions League, Europa League and the Super Cup, James has scored six goals and provided 12 assists.

Brazil emerged victorious as Copa America Feminina champions after a hard-fought 1-0 win against Colombia on Saturday, played in Colombia.

The only goal of the game came from the penalty spot, with Brazil's Debinha making no mistake in the 39th minute.

With the goal, Debinha finished tied for second in the tournament's Golden Boot race, as she and teammate Adriana Maga finished with five goals each, one behind Argentina's Yamila Rodriguez.

The victory puts the finishing touches on a remarkable run from the Brazilians, not conceding a single goal in the tournament, while winning their six matches by a combined score of 20-0.

There was plenty of attacking from both sides – with Colombia attempting 21 shots while Brazil had 15 – but the winning side was credited with all four 'big chances', and were on the right side of the expected goal count 1.65 to 0.97.

Brazil will play the winner of the Women's European Championships in a Finalissima on a date yet to be confirmed.

Former Real Madrid player and Colombia international Freddy Rincon has died from injuries sustained when the car he was driving collided with a bus in the Colombian city of Cali.

Rincon was diagnosed with "severe head trauma" following the Monday morning accident, and was admitted to Imbanaco Clinic for surgery.

He made 21 appearances for Real Madrid in the 1995-96 season, and also earned 84 caps for Colombia.

The Colombian Football Federation released a statement following his passing, acknowledging his achievements and the fact that he was the first Colombian to ever play for Real Madrid.

It went on to say: "This constitutes a great loss for his family and friends, and it is also an unfortunate departure for our sport, where we will miss him and remember him with great affection, appreciation, respect and admiration.

"We send strength, support and our condolences to his family, hoping they can bear this sad and painful loss."

Rincon was 55 years old.

Former Real Madrid and Colombia midfielder Freddy Rincon is in critical condition after suffering a "severe head trauma" in a reported road traffic accident. 

According to local media, Rincon's car was hit by a bus in the early hours of Monday morning in Cali. He was taken to the Imbanaco Clinic for surgery. 

Clinic director Laureano Quintero told reporters: "Freddy Eusebio Rincon was admitted this morning as a victim of severe head trauma. His condition is very critical.

"He was taken to our operating room area and from there to the intensive care area. All the pertinent care will be applied and our team of specialists will do everything necessary.

"This is the current situation and we repeat, the situation is critical."

Rincon made 21 appearances for Madrid in the 1995-96 season and earned 84 caps for Colombia. 

A statement from Madrid read: "All of our strength and affection for Freddy Rincon following the accident he was involved in today. We send our encouragement and we hope that he overcomes this difficult moment as soon as possible." 

The qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup is all but over.

Some key matches still have to be played, with Wales yet to find out their fate as they wait to face the winner of Scotland's play-off with Ukraine, which has been postponed due to Russia's invasion of the country, while there are inter-confederation play-offs also to be decided.

In total, 28 nations have qualified already, and most of football's star names will be present.

That being said, while France's world champions will bid to defend their crown, Neymar will bring the Brazilian stardust, Lionel Messi will look to build on Argentina's Copa America triumph and Cristiano Ronaldo will feature at a record-equalling fifth tournament, some huge players - and indeed teams, in the case of Italy - will not be present in Qatar.

Stats Perform has looked at some of the star players who will be watching the tournament from home.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Arguably the best player in the world this season, Salah will not be lighting up Qatar with any mazy runs or sensational strikes. Given the tournament is in the middle of next season, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may secretly be pleased his talisman will not be risking injury or fatigue, but Salah – who blazed his penalty over in the decisive shoot-out against Senegal on Tuesday – will be a big miss.


James Rodriguez (Colombia)

A star of the 2014 World Cup, in which he won the golden boot, James Rodriguez scored Colombia's winner against Venezuela on Tuesday, yet Peru's victory over Paraguay meant the ex-Real Madrid playmaker and his team-mates will not appear in Qatar, where James currently plies his trade for Al-Rayyan.

Luis Diaz, who has made a flying start to life at Liverpool since joining from Porto in January, is another Colombian talent who will be watching on from the sidelines.

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

The hero of Italy's Euro 2020 triumph with his saves in the penalty shoot-out victory over England last July, Donnarumma – one of Europe's best goalkeepers – will be watching on from afar along with the rest of Roberto Mancini's players. After his error in Paris Saint-Germain's capitulation against Madrid in the Champions League, March has been a sour month for the 23-year-old.

Georgio Chiellini (Italy)

While Donnarumma has time on his side to make it to the next World Cup, the same cannot be said for Giorgio Chiellini. The centre-back is 37 and will surely not be featuring at another major tournament for Italy now.

Defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci may also fall into that category, given he turns 35 in May, while 29-year-old playmaker Marco Verratti may also have seen his final chance of appearing at the World Cup for a second time dashed.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

It was the battle of two of Europe's leading marksmen of the last decade on Tuesday, as Poland went head-to-head with Sweden, and it was Robert Lewandowski and Co. who came out on top, winning 2-0.

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski opened the scoring from the penalty spot, and though Ibrahimovic came on as a late substitute, he could not turn the tide in Sweden's favour. The Milan striker has suggested he wants to carry on playing for his country, but at 40, surely this was his last chance of appearing at a World Cup.

Erling Haaland (Norway)

Although Ibrahimovic may be approaching the tail-end of his career, Haaland is certainly not. Yet like the Swede, the Borussia Dortmund forward will not be playing in Qatar either.

Indeed, even if Norway had made it through their qualification group, it is uncertain as to whether or not the players would have chosen to boycott the tournament, having previously made their feelings on Qatar's human rights record clear. But they finished third in Group G anyway.

Arsenal playmaker Martin Odegaard is another bright Norweigian talent, though the Scandinavian nation may well fancy their chances heading towards Euro 2024 and the 2026 World Cup.


David Alaba (Austria)

Madrid defender Alaba could not inspire Austria to victory in their play-off clash with Wales, with Gareth Bale's double doing the damage. After a glittering career with Bayern, Alaba is on course to win LaLiga with Los Blancos, but any form of real, tangible success on the international stage looks set to avoid him.

Jan Oblak (Slovenia)

Oblak's form has dipped this season for Atletico Madrid but on his day he is still right up there among the world's best goalkeepers, though he could not help Slovenia finish higher than fourth in their qualification group, as their wait to qualify for a first World Cup since 2010 rolled on.

James Rodriguez said his soul is broken by the fact that Colombia will not be at the 2022 World Cup, after they failed to qualify for a place in Qatar.

Colombia beat Venezuela 1-0 on Tuesday, with James scoring the winner from the penalty spot.

However, Peru beat Paraguay to finish one point above Colombia in the CONMEBOL standings, meaning they took fifth place and will go up against either Australia or the United Arab Emirates in an inter-confederation play-off.

James, who shot to stardom with his standout performances for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup when winning the Golden Boot, plays his club football in Qatar, yet one of South American football's most prominent poster boys will not be at the showpiece tournament.

It is a fall from grace for Colombia, who reached the quarter-finals in 2014 and the last 16 in 2018, having failed to qualify for the 2002, 2006 and 2010 editions of the tournament, while they also finished third in the 2021 Copa America.

Former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich playmaker James will be 34 by the time the 2026 World Cup comes around, meaning he may have missed his last chance to represent his country on the biggest stage. 

"The most beautiful thing that has happened to me in my career as a footballer was attending two World Cups representing the shirt that I love the most, the yellow of my national team," he wrote on social media.

"Today I am in deep pain. I believe that our country has the talent and players to always be part of the World Cup.

"I feel sad and not only for myself, but also for my colleagues who deserve to shine and I know they have how. I don't know if [I'm] coming for the next processes, I don't know if [I'll be] here or not.

"What I do know is that it breaks my soul to lose, it makes me uncomfortable not being classified and this cannot happen again."

James, who disputed coach Reinaldo Rueda's reasoning as to why he was not selected for last year's Copa America, also suggested Colombia must reassess after their failure.

"I want Colombia to go to all the World Cups," he wrote.

"We must plan, join forces and work hard from the administrative and sports aspects to once again show the world the power and talent of our land."

Peru are one game away from back-to-back World Cup finals appearances following Tuesday's 2-0 win over Paraguay and head coach Ricardo Gareca lauded his side who seemed set to miss out six months ago.

La Blanquirroja clinched fifth spot in World Cup qualifying in CONMEBOL with the victory over Paraguay, finishing ahead of Colombia and Chile who were eliminated.

Peru's win means they will play the fifth-ranked team from the Asian Football Confederation, either Australia or UAE, who will meet in a one-off playoff in Doha in June. The inter-confederation playoff will also be played as a one-off in Doha on June 13 or 14.

Gareca's side seemed a long shot to claim fifth after back-to-back 1-0 losses to Bolivia and Argentina which left them second last in the standings in October but rallied by claiming 13 points from a possible 18 in their final six qualifiers.

“We didn't start the qualifiers well, but we rebounded well," Gareca told reporters. "It gave us the possibility to get to the playoff spot.

"I have to congratulate the boys and thank the people for the support. It was incredible. When I renewed my contract, this is what I wanted."

Gareca has been widely praised within Peru for his efforts, having taken over as national team boss in March 2015 and leading the side to its first World Cup in 36 years in 2018 along with the 2019 Copa America final.

The sentiment has been different for Colombia head coach Reinaldo Rueda, who achieved a rare feat of guiding two sides in qualifying who both failed to reach the World Cup. Rueda had led Chile early in qualifying before being dismissed, taking over Colombia in January.

"I think that not achieving the goal is a shame for Colombian football," Rueda told reporters after Colombia's 1-0 win in Venezuela which was not enough. "It is a very strong frustration. It was added, but the great result was not given."

"I think it is very clear that my contract was subject to qualifying for the World Cup, so it is an evaluation that the board will have to do, of the work we have done."

Chile's failure means they have missed the past two World Cups, meaning the international careers of several of their golden generation, including Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Charles Aranguiz, Claudio Bravo, Mauricio Isla, Gary Medel and Eduardo Vargas, may come to an end.

Chile head coach Martin Lasarte told reporters after their 2-0 home loss to Uruguay: "I think some players from the 'golden generation' still have something to give."

Page 2 of 5
© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.