With Luis Suarez’s post-bite World Cup suspension, Saturday’s Colombia-Uruguay elimination game in Rio de Janeiro seemed to lack star power. Good thing Colombia’s James Rodriguez used the occasion to become the breakout player of the tournament, scoring twice and sending Los Cafeteros through to their first ever quarterfinal appearance.
After a slow start that found Uruguay content to play patient, sleepy soccer and wait for the counter, Rodriguez left the two-time World Cup champs reeling with an artistic fit of solo dominance in the 28th minute that made it 1-0 Colombia. The twist forced Uruguay to expound energy it didn’t have enough of.
Rodriguez finished with four shots on goal and two scores. With the win, Colombia becomes the first team during Brazil 2014 to win four games. Though it entered as one of the tournament’s top eight seeds, the perpetual international underachievers faced doubt over attacking prowess, after star striker Radamel Falcao was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury. The team has responded with 11 goals, including five from Rodriguez, who now leads the World Cup in scoring.
In the 50th minute, Rodriguez put Uruguay down for good.
For its part, Uruguay entered as an aging and thin team on the last legs of a mini-renaissance dating back to the last World Cup, where it finished fourth. Uruguay also won the 2011 Copa America, during a hot streak where it bested Lionel Messi and host nation Argentina. But Saturday it was forced to field twilight veteran star Diego Forlan for 90 minutes he wasn’t up for. Though it possessed and moved the ball well into scoring position, without Suarez’s desperate, manic runs inside, Uruguay lacked anyone that could imaginatively create space or do anything with service. Atletico Madrid stalwart Diego Godin similarly anchored a patchwork backline that routinely failed to keep up with the speedy, younger Colombians.
The win comes 20 years and two days from Colombia’s infamous loss to the United States in the 1994 World Cup, wherein defender Andres Escobar botched a clearance kick and netted an own-goal that eliminated his hype-laden national team.
Brazil and Colombia meet July 4 in the quarterfinals.
Photo via Raineiro Cobos/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)