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BBC Sport's Tim Vickery
"No-one could begrudge the Colombian's their success, on or off the field"
 real 14k

Monday, 30 July, 2001, 04:51 GMT 05:51 UK
Colombia celebrate double triumph
Mario Yepes watches Ivan Cordoba kissing the Copa
Yepes and Cordoba were Colombia's stars
BBC Sport's Tim Vickery reports from Bogota on a Copa America that proved a great success against all odds

The highly controversial 40th Copa America went off with scarcely a hitch.

The competition was born - and nearly stillborn - amid security panics that proved exaggerated. Despite all the problems, Colombia`s first Copa America was a success.

It may be more true to say that the tournament was a success precisely because of the problems. The Colombians are very aware that everything in their country is not as it could and should be.

But they are also disappointed that the bad news forms the only image the world has of their land.

Their sense of civic pride is strong, they have a rich culture and they were desperate to use the Copa America to send this message to the world.

South America is a poor continent. In general, people are unable to travel abroad to watch their national team. So there is almost no travelling support at the Copa America.

Unless the host nation gets behind the event, the stadiums can be sad and empty.

Colombian fans celebrate
Colombian fans contributed to the Copa's success
The Colombians turned the Copa America 2001 into a party from beginning to end.

They were so warmly appreciative of the fact that 11 countries had sent a team to their tournament that inside the stadiums they created the conditions for open, attractive games.

The standard of football was far higher than anyone could have hoped, given the fact that many countries came with experimental squads.

The Colombians were fanatical neutral supporters - so it was only fitting that in the end they had the chance to cheer their own side to a major title.

With six games, six wins and no goals conceded, there can be no doubt that the best team won the Copa America.

The final may not have been the spectacle that the tournament deserved, but Colombia´s 1-0 victory over Mexico was a deserved win in a clash of the best two teams in the competition.

With their morale boosted by their new piece of silverware, it will be fascinating to see where Colombian football goes from here. It is only in the last 15 years that Colombia has emerged as a genuine force.

Up to now they have tended to fragility, unable to cope with the pressures of responsibility. But Colombian football now seems set to enter into its maturity.

World Cup aim

They turn out attacking talent by the cartload, and have players in the major leagues of Europe and Latin America.

Yepes and Cordoba are a pair of centre backs so good that not only did Colombia not concede a goal in the tournament, there was hardly a serious shot aimed at their keeper. Brazil would die to have either of them.

Colombia have qualified for the last three World Cups. They face a struggle to make it through to a fourth.

But anything is possible now Yepes and Cordoba are united again after the latter was missing from qualification through suspension and injury.

Colombia need to carry the momentum of their Copa America success through to World Cup qualification.

But it is only fair to let them celebrate for a few days before getting down to business.

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29 Jul 01 |  Football
Clockwatch: Colombia 1-0 Mexico
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