Channel NewsAsia

World Cup: Colombia's Santos calls for Pekerman to stay as coach

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos late Saturday thanked his country's football team for their strong World Cup performance, and urged sports officials to keep the side's Argentine coach.

BOGOTA: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos late Saturday thanked his country's football team for their strong World Cup performance, and urged sports officials to keep the side's Argentine coach.

In his first public presentation since winning re-election on June 15, an emotional Santos, wearing the team's yellow jersey, thanked the players and coach Jose Pekerman for taking Colombia to the tournament's quarter-finals for the first time.

"Many thanks to our players who gave it all in the field, with honor, dignity and clean play," Santos said. "What pride! We are so proud of our Colombian national team."

Colombia was eliminated from the tournament when they lost to Brazil 2-1 at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza on Friday.

Santos, who flew to Brazil for the match, asked the Federacion Colombiana de Futbol to keep Pekerman on the job.

Pekerman has successfully guided the team "with class and professionalism," Santos said.

The 64-year-old Pekerman, a former taxi driver and club football player, was Argentina's coach in the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Pekerman's contract with Colombia ends in August, and he has said nothing about life after the World Cup.

In Friday's tough and physical match, the main villan was Colombia's Juan Zuniga for a violent foul that fractured Brazilian superstar Neymar's vertebrae.

Neymar will miss the rest of the tournament, and FIFA said that it may take disciplinary action against the 28-year-old Colombian defender.

Zuniga denied that he intentionally sought to injure Neymar.

Santos emphasised "unity" and "working together for the country" in his televised speech.

The Santos administration is engaged in peace talks aimed at ending the country's five decade war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.

The football team, known as Los Cafeteros, will be welcomed home with a parade and open-air rally in Bogota on Sunday.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia