Soccer-Colombia fire Pinto after two successive defeats

BOGOTA, Sept 16 Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:18am BST

BOGOTA, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Colombia fired coach Jorge Luis Pinto on Tuesday, less than one week after losing 4-0 to Chile in a World Cup qualifier, and replaced him with former youth team coach Eduardo Lara.

The change came less than one month before Colombia face two more qualifiers, at home to Paraguay and away to Brazil. Pinto, in charge since Dec. 2006, is the third coaching victim of the South American World Cup qualifiers, which started last October.

"The target of our federation is to qualify Colombia for the 2010 World Cup," Colombian football federation president Luis Bedoya told a news conference after a meeting with Pinto, who left the building without speaking to the media.

"Jorge Luis Pinto will not continue as coach of the Colombian national team and will be replaced by Eduardo Lara.

"The federation thanks the professionalism, hard work and commitment of professor Pinto with the national team."

Colombia, who last qualified for the World Cup in 1998, are sixth in the 10-team South American group with 10 points from eight games but have scored only four goals.

They were unbeaten until this month when they lost 1-0 at home to Uruguay and were then thumped by Chile, teams who are considered direct rivals for a World Cup place.

The top four teams qualify for the World Cup and the fifth plays off against the fourth side from the CONCACAF region for another place.

Pinto, who last year fell out with experienced defender Ivan Cordoba, had been criticised for tinkering with his squad and had denied recent reports he had fallen out with several players.

Ecuador and Venezuela have also changed coaches since the competition started.

(Reporting by Javier Mozzo; Writing by Brian Homewood in Buenos Aires; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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