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Colombia sack Alvarez after three qualifiers

"Unfortunately, we are ending the work contract with professor Leonel Alvarez and we are starting a selection process for a new coach," Colombian Football Federation (FCF) president Luis Bedoya told reporters.

The 46-year-old Alvarez, a midfielder in Colombia's fine team of the 1990s, had only been in the job since September when he replaced Hernan Dario Gomez, who resigned after a hitting a woman in a Bogota nightclub scandal.

Alvarez began with a 2-1 win over Bolivia in October at high altitude in La Paz, never an easy venue for the visitors, but in two home matches in Barranquilla in November Colombia were held 1-1 by Venezuela and lost 2-1 to Argentina, both times after taking the lead.

Bedoya declined to reveal names of possible candidates nor whether the FCF might consider employing a foreign coach, which media and many fans have been clamouring for.

"We have made no decision. What we want is to look for a coach who will give us guarantees and hopefully the experience required for the qualifiers," he said.

FCF sources said there was no chance of Gomez being reinstated as some members of the federation's executive committee had proposed.

Gomez was the last coach to take Colombia to the World Cup finals in France in 1998. Formerly he had been assistant to Francisco Maturana, whose brilliant team anchored in midfield by Alvarez played at the 1990 and 1994 tournaments.

They achieved a memorable 5-0 win over Argentina in Buenos Aires in 1993 during the qualifying campaign which earned them the tag of World Cup favourites that they failed to live up to in the 1994 U.S. finals.

Colombia recalled Gomez, who had steered Ecuador to their first World Cup finals in Asia in 2002, last year charging him and his assistant Alvarez with ending the country's long wait for another finals.

Alvarez, whose only previous head coaching job had been less than two years at Independiente Medellin before joining Gomez with the Colombia team, has paid for his inexperience and caution.

His team took the lead against a lacklustre Argentina last month but they failed to press home their advantage and Lionel Messi's side hit back with two second-half goals.