Football: Colombia give World Cup chance to two uncapped newcomers

Boca Juniors' Claudio Riano (left) is challenged by River Plate's Eder Alvarez Balanta during their Argentine Championship First Division soccer match in Buenos Aires on Oct 6, 2013. Outstanding River Plate defender Eder Alvarez Balanta is one o
Boca Juniors' Claudio Riano (left) is challenged by River Plate's Eder Alvarez Balanta during their Argentine Championship First Division soccer match in Buenos Aires on Oct 6, 2013. Outstanding River Plate defender Eder Alvarez Balanta is one of two uncapped players picked by Colombia for their World Cup warm-up games against Belgium and the Netherlands later this month. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

BOGOTA (REUTERS) - Outstanding River Plate defender Eder Alvarez Balanta is one of two uncapped players picked by Colombia for their World Cup warm-up games against Belgium and the Netherlands later this month.

Central defender Balanta, a 20-year-old who has shown great promise in the Argentine first division, owes his call-up by coach Jose Pekerman on Thursday to the absence through injury of captain Mario Yepes.

Pekerman also included forward Victor Ibarbo of Cagliari in a 24-man squad missing injured attacking midfielder Juan Fernando Quintero, goalkeeper David Ospina and fullback Camilo Zuniga.

"The national team start their work for the World Cup from now. Time is short but it's a challenge to be able to do so with the dream of having a good Brazil 2014 tournament," Argentine Pekerman told a news conference.

"The players know they need competition and so they must choose their future well to work to the full at their clubs."

Colombia, who will be playing in their first finals for 16 years having qualified in second place behind Argentina from the South American group, face Belgium in Brussels on Nov. 14 and the Dutch in Amsterdam five days later.