by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 19th 2014)
Colombia took control of the group after beating Ivory Coast 2-1 in Brasiliaʼs Estádio Nacional Mané Garrincha. The stadium that was the centre of the initial protests at last yearʼs Confederationsʼ Cup cost a staggering $900,000, 000 to build – a figure that according to Concern Worldwide could have fed almost 10,000,000 children for a year. The stadium – likely to be a white elephant due to the quality of football in Brasilʼs capital – is witnessing some excellent football.
Shorn of their talisman, striker Radmael Falcao García Zárate, chances were wasted by the profligate Teófilo Gutiérrez Roncancio before José Pékerman Krimenʼs side took control in the second half. Pékerman – the first foreigner to coach Colombia for 30 years knows Colombian football and its culture well. He is credited by no less an authority than Carlos Valderrama Palacio with restoring Colombian football to its attacking roots after taking over from former Colombian idol Leonel Álvarez Zuleta – the second most capped player in Colombian history. Álvarezʼ stint as national coach was uneventful, but staring disaster in the face Colombiaʼs hopes were put in Pékermanʼs hands.
The Making of a Star
Monacoʼs James Rodríguez Rubio is tipped by many to be a star of this World Cup, in the absence of club and country star Falcao . He justified the faith with a powerful header after 64 minutes to open the scoring and a secondary assist for substitute Juan Quintero Paniagua to put Colombia 2-0 up after 70 minutes. Four minutes later a mazy run by Gervinho from the left flank past three Colombian challenges and into the area saw the former Arsenal man beat David Ospina Ramírez at his near post.
Overall, Colombia, inspired by Rodríguez and Cuadrado, were worth the win. The first opportunity fell to Colombia. Fiorentinaʼs winger Cuadrado found Monacoʼs Rodríguez, whose back-heel set up Gutiérrez, but the River Plate strikerʼs shot didnʼt trouble Boubacar Barry in Ivory Coastʼs goal. Two minutes later Cuadrado set up Rodríguez after an excellent run down the left flank, but Didier Zokora cleared.
Nip and Tuck
More than half-way through the first half Ivory Cost get their first chance as Newcastleʼs Cheikh Tioté shot well over from 25 yards. It posed no threat to Ospinaʼs goal. Just under half an hour into the match Elcheʼs Carlos Sánchez Morenoʼs superb pass found Cuadrado on the left. His brilliant pass to Gutiérrez should have led to the opening goal, but the River Plate striker fluffed his shot badly – a truly awful miss.
Toulouseʼs Serge Aurier turned inside 38 year-old Mario Yepes Díaz and shot wide to Ospinaʼs left. Colombia had the best of the first half, but Swanseaʼs Wilfried Bony will still be wondering why he tried a spectacular overhead when he could and should have adjusted to Yaya Touréʼs cross and taken aim with the goal at his mercy. Cuadrado very nearly punished the profligacy. His shot from a tight angle on the right after turning Soulemayne Bamba inside out got a slight touch from Barry onto the bar.
Less than five minutes later Cuadradoʼs corner was powerfully headed in by Rodríguez. Barry got a hand to it, but could only push it into his own net. Six minutes later a poor corner by Ivory Coast resulted in Serey Die losing possession to Rodríguez. He released Gutiérrez near the penalty area and he put Quintero through on the right of the area. Quintero shot across Barry to double Colombiaʼs lead. Gervinho (Gervais Yao Kouassi) brought Ivory Coast back into the match less than five minutes later. In possession on left flank Gervinho cut into area and beat Ospina at his near post. Niceʼs keeper got a hand to it but should have done better. Substitute Salomon Kalouʼs weak effort resembled conceding possession rather than a shot in the final ten minutes and despite a terrible defensive error Didier Drogba could not latch onto Aurierʼs pass. Ospina rushed out of his area to clear the danger. Colombia held on for a win that puts them in poll position to qualify. Greece and Japan play later knowing that defeat will all but end their hopes.