ESPN | 5/5/2010 12:00:00 AM
Carlos Valderrama: Colombian king
May 5--With his frizzy mop of hair, sparkling jewellery and colourful personality, Carlos Alberto Valderrama Palacio is unquestionably one of the most recognisable footballers to have graced the World Cup.
Despite never realistically managing to mount an assault on the biggest prize in the game, his 111 caps for his country coupled with the grace and poise he demonstrated on the ball mark him out as a one of the best South Americans to have played the game.
Given his debut for Colombia in October 1985, he was certainly not a Wunderkind even though he carried the nickname "El Pibe" [The Kid], but instead made his bow in the 3-0 defeat to Paraguay aged 24. That said, Valderrama did not need a lot of time to make his mark on the national team setup and was not made to wait long before he was given the honour of wearing the captain's armband at the Copa America tournament in 1987 when he led his side to third place.
A gifted passer of the ball with an artistic nature that lends itself to the position, he was employed in the centre of the pitch as the team's playmaker for the 1990 World Cup in Italy and impressed on his first step on the world stage. A team that consisted of the likes of Rene Higuita and Freddy Rincon were given little chance as the country had not qualified for a World Cup since 1962 - when they had gone out in the first round - although the addition of the United Arab Emirates in a group that also contained West Germany and Yugoslavia gave them a chance of making it through.
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