Sunday’s tightly disputed presidential elections were pushed to one side as the Colombian national team produced a footballing master class to see off a determined Greek side in the opening game of Group C in the World Cup finals.
A 3-0 win, in the Minerao stadium in Belo Horizonte, orchestrated by Monaco-based James Rodriguez and the dogged physicality of Cagliari’s Victor Ibarbo was more than enough to defeat a Greek side noted for its defensive capabilities.
If anyone had politics on the mind in the Colombian capital of Bogotá it didn’t show as the city’s main arteries were bereft of people as football fans of every age and social strata crammed into cafes, into squares equipped with big screens and hosted house parties before the Ley Seca – or dry law – where the sale of alcohol is prohibited before elections.
“It’s the first game, we’re happy for the win today but now we focus on the next game against the Ivory Coast,” said Colombia’s Argentine coach Jose Pekerman in an interview to Caracol TV.
West Ham defender Pablo Armero was an unlikely candidate for Colombia’s first goal and indeed the nation’s fastest ever in the World Cup finals on the five-minute mark, but he latched on to creative work by James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado angling a shot beyond Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.
Greece offered some attacking response in the second half, hitting the cross-bar and forcing David Ospina into a fine save but Colombian hearts remained upbeat despite Bogota’s ubiquitous early afternoon rain and River Plate’s Teofilo Gutierrez slotted a well taken poached second on 58 minutes.
The game was put beyond Greece when James Rodriguez scored a deserved third and three-quarters of the Minerao erupted in a festival of yellow. Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, absent from the game due to injury was there in Belo Horizonte watching the game.
The whistle blew for the end of the game and 16 years after their last appearance in the World Cup Finals have returned, the joy is back in the Colombian game.