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SPORTS | 04-09-2018 17:59

José Pékerman quits as coach of Colombian national team

Could Argentine coach enter the running for vacant head coach post of the Albiceleste?

José Pékerman stepped down as Colombia coach on Tuesday, less than two months after leading the side into the knock-out stages of the World Cup in Russia.

The 69-year-old Argentine had been in the job since 2012 and led Colombia to successive World Cup finals appearances. His departure from the post will increase speculation that he may enter the running to head his homeland's national team.

A Yerry Mina goal deep into stoppage time gave Colombia a 1-1 draw with England in the last 16 in Russia but the South Americans were then knocked out on penalties.

Colombian Football Federation president Ramón Jesurun praised Pékerman's "highly successful" spell in charge.

He denied press reports there had been a falling out over pay, saying Pékerman had quit for "strictly personal reasons."

Pékerman's contract ended on August 31 and local press were speculating that an extension was being hampered by an inability to agree economic terms, as well as a federation demand that the coach's agent be kept away from the national team.

In a press conference, Pékerman criticised the media for "causing a lot of harm to the national team", with such rumours.

"You don't get elsewhere the amount of lies and drivel that has been said here," he added, insisting he hasn't had offers from other clubs or countries.

"There has been a lot of damage to Colombia with all these rumors and conjectures. I said it when I arrived, we need to work together, support the national team to achieve great things. There is a hard path that has been walked and we need to keep up the great work.

"My Colombian daughter must be sad, but I leave with happiness for having people's support," Pékerman added.

Under Pékerman, Colombia achieved their best-ever World Cup finish, reaching the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago, where they lost to the hosts.

They also made the last eight of the 2015 Copa América, while finishing third a year later in the centenary edition.

Pékerman previously coached Argentina at the 2006 World Cup, where they lost to hosts Germany in the quarter-finals. Since Jorge Sampaoli's departure from the Albiceleste's coaching staff, Pékerman's name has continually been mentioned as a potential replacement.

Veteran Dutchman Guus Hiddink, the former Netherlands, Real Madrid and Chelsea coach, has been muted as a possible replacement to take over the Colombia job, along with Iran's Portuguese boss Carlos Queiroz and Croatia's Zlatko Dalic, who guided his country to the World Cup final in July.

Colombia face Venezuela in a friendly on Friday before taking on Argentina in another next week, both being played in the United States. Arturo Reyes has been appointed as interim coach until a permanent replacement has been found..

- TIMES/AFP/AP

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