The second Round of 16 clash, and Brazil awaited the winner of this match. One of the most evenly matched game of the knockouts, without Luis Suarez, many did not fancy Uruguay. Perhaps they lacked a certain bite without him. Colombia made many changes from the side that trampled Japan 4-1, the most notable one being James Rodriguez returning to the line-up, while Jackson Martinez kept his place. Diego Forlan made it into the starting XI for the suspended Luis Suarez.
The game was all about Colombia and how they would handle the pressure. They had never in their history, made it to the last 8 of the competition. They were calm on the ball, pin point in their passing and made sure Uruguay were running around. Uruguay struggled to find composure on the ball, while Colombia oozed class. David Ospina was very reliable in goal, while Muslera looked shaky. Uruguay were visibly distracted by the off pitch events and they didn’t have their A-game. Just before 30 minutes, Colombia took the lead and it was a bolt from the blue, given that the football played was pretty glib. The finish was jaw dropping and it was Colombia’s James Rodriguez, their baby faced assassin. Cuadrado’s pass was lofted right back to him and a cushioning header put the ball into the Monaco winger’s path. 25 yards out, he took one touch to control and he lashed a volley beating Muslera to give Colombia the lead. It was one of the goals of the world cup and the commentator rightly said that it was “superb technically and superb visually.” It was the most perfect combination of technique and talent, drawing gasps from around this iconic stadium when it was replayed on the four giant screens that hang from the roof of the vast bowl. This goal put him with the elite, as he became the first player since 2002 (Ronaldo and Rivaldo) to score a goal in 4 consecutive games. Colombia seemed confident of taking the victory and Pekerman had lots to be happy about at half-time. Edinson Cavani and tried his best to run with the ball and find openings but Yepes Zapata made sure that Colombia stayed up.
The second half held more delight for Colombia and some more despair for Oscar Tabarez as just five minutes into the half, a long ball from left back Armero found assist king Cuadrado who headed back into the path of goal, only for J-Rod to bury it in the back of the net. He claimed his second of the night and 5th of the tournament to become the top-scorer.
Uruguay responded but their World Cup was over the horizon – although Maximiliano Pereira and Edinson Cavani forced fine saves from Colombia keeper David Ospina. A special mention to the Colombian shot stopper, who was fantastic and decisive in front of goal. He wasn’t called upon for major parts of the game and it is really easy to lose concentration, but he was extremely reliable and he deserves more plaudits then he gets. That being said, James Rodriguez was the pick of the players and was removed in the closing minutes to conserve energy for the meeting with Brazil. He will pose a serious threat to Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side – as will a highly impressive Colombia. Colombia deserved the victory and the CONCAF champions looked toothless in attack and were punished severely. Their World Cup hopes are over, and congratulations to Colombia for reaching the Last 8 for the first time in their history.
FIFA/Our Man Of The Match: James Rodriguez.
Lit up the Maracana with a volley right out of the top drawer. Always demanded the ball and showed absolutely no fear throughout. His incredible tournament continued with a close range finish in the second half. Admire that first goal technically, admire that goal dreamily. James is the Player of The Tournament so far and he has filled Falcao’s void superbly.
His First Goal:
Our Flop of The Match: Diego Forlán
Dreadfully disappointing return to the starting line-up. Looked every bit of his 35 years as he was a step behind most plays – a poor replacement for Suarez. The once Golden Ball winner will be kicking himself as he could not please his manager after being given an opportunity. A night to forget for the former Atletico Madrid man.