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Colombia 'can go far' at Copa America Centenario - Jose Pekerman

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Colombia coach Jose Pekerman is hoping his team can build on their strong performance at the 2014 World Cup when the Cafeteros kicks off the Copa America Centenario on Friday against tournament hosts United States.

"Colombia is coming with the memory of a team that competes at a very high level," Pekerman, who led Colombia to the quarterfinals in Brazil two years ago after a 16-year absence from soccer's premier event, told a news conference on Thursday evening. "We went to Brazil, we had a good tournament there, but we know it was a long process.

"At this point we want to find an equilibrium, a balance, between the players who have experience and know how to play in important games. We hope those players can translate that experience to the new players."

Only seven players return from the World Cup squad, including attackers Carlos Bacca, Juan Cuardado and captain James Rodriguez. But Pekerman said the newcomers have plenty to offer.

"The team has changed in some sections but we needed it," he said. "We have mixed fast players and creative players."

Those different elements will make Colombia, currently ranked No. 3 by FIFA, a handful for the U.S. and fellow Group A foes Costa Rica and Paraguay.

Colombia James Rodriguez Cuadrado
James Rodriguez and Colombia reached the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup.

Pekerman is wary of the United States' strengths, namely their ability in the air.

"Surely will try to exploit us. We know that we have to control those aspects of the game," he said.

Pekerman said he speaks to U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann frequently.

"I respect Jurgen a lot, we've known each other for a long time," he said. "We talk a lot. He has a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge and I'm sure that's a mentality he has transmitted to the United States.

"They know what Colombia is but they're going to try to win and use their strengths. They have like us a combination of experience and also many young players that have just came up. Both teams are similar, and that makes the game more attractive."

The U.S. game is the first of what Pekerman believes can be a long stay in the competition.

"We have a lot of players in the elite of the world soccer, more than before," he said. "I think we can go far."

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

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