Colombia is coming of age right before our eyes
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates after scoring his second goal during the 2014 World Cup round of 16 game between Colombia and Uruguay at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro June 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergio Moraes)
Rio de Janeiro—Colombia has booked a date in the quarterfinals with host Brazil.
It won’t be a date Brazil is looking forward to.
Colombia defeated Uruguay 2-0 Saturday in World Cup play, ensuring its national team will go further than it ever has before in the World Cup.
Brazil advanced earlier in the day with a heart-stopping win on kicks from the penalty spot over Chile.
But after watching Colombia’s popular win over Uruguay, there is no debate that Brazil will have to improve or it will be Colombia dancing all over the host side at the World Cup.
A lot of people are dancing along with this Colombia squad after this statement game. Uruguay, and suspended forward Luis Suarez, was a toxin in what has been a relatively squeaky-clean tournament.
There were signs referring to Uruguay as “The Biters” and several fans were wearing masks over their mouths with Suarez’s name on them.
The happiness surrounding Colombia also has a great deal to do with how in the past, the country has suffered major trauma and issues with soccer.
This team plays with a great deal of joy.
“I'd like to congratulate the whole of Colombia because they deserved this,” said Colombia coach Jose Pekerman.
This quarterfinal did not match the intensity or thrill of Brazil against Chile earlier in the day but then again, not many games have or will.
What it did have was a goal that will go down as one of the best goals ever scored in a World Cup.
It belonged to Colombian James Rodriguez who is making quite a name for himself in Brazil. The goal came at a most opportune time in the first half when Uruguay was stunted with every attack Colombia brought to them.
But stopping perfection is impossible.
With less than 30 minutes gone in the half, Rodriguez brought down a pass with his chest. It went from his chest to his left foot. With Uruguayans closing in around him, he volleyed the ball from the edge of the penalty area. The ball shot off his foot, just tipped the fingers of Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera, clipped the underside of the crossbar and slammed over the line.
“It's historic, a dream come true,” Rodriguez said. “I always wanted to score in the Maracana and now I have. If you want to win, every player is important. Uruguay had a lot of men behind the ball, so we needed plenty of movement up front and we got it. Now things are going to get even harder, but we can go far.”
Colombia had 70% of ball possession up to then and certainly deserved something. But they were a little wary about committing too many men forward because of Uruguay’s ability to counter.
The goal forced the game to change and gave Colombia a lot more room to operate.
Rodriguez scored his second of the game and fifth of the tournament in the 50th minute and it was pretty much game, set and match.
With Diego Forlan playing in place of suspended Suarez, Uruguay didn’t have the kind of bite they needed to scrape together a goal.
Colombia was one of the nations considered to be a possible surprise at the tournament. Even with the loss of one of their top scorers before the tournament, Colombia has been delightful to watch.
The nation is keen to scrub clean some of its unfortunate history in the World Cup and soccer in general.
Colombia’s domestic leagues have had a history not many other domestic leagues have had. It was not until the 1980s that Colombian soccer gained any momentum and as uncomfortable as the topic is, there was a lot of drug money going into the leagues. Players were being developed and money was making it attractive to play in Colombia.
In fact, Colombia was supposed to stage the 1986 World Cup but with numerous political issues, had to give it up. It eventually went to Mexico.
But soccer took a back step when Andrés Escobar, a star defender on the 1994 national team, was killed outside a Medellin nightclub on the day the World Cup entered its knockout phase. He had scored an own goal against the United States costing gamblers a great deal of money. There were rumours he was killed in retaliation for the mistake.
But with social reforms in Colombia and many players getting a chance to play in professional leagues in Portugal, Germany and other highly competitive countries, it has brought a new era to Colombian soccer.
The development of players like Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Mario Yepes and Jackson Martinez has ensured a positive future for the game in Colombia.
But they’re only looking so far ahead, as they play Brazil on July 4.