Colombia made the most of their first World Cup appearance in 16 years, riding goals from Pablo Armero, Teofilo Gutierrez, and James Rodriguez to a 3-0 rout over Greece in the Group C opener on Saturday at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
EARLY DANCE PARTY: Colombia scored their fastest goal in World Cup history, opening a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute and following that with the tournament’s best celebration to date (see below). Armero scored the goal after a great ball from Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and an equally impressive dummy from Rodríguez, hitting a shot that deflected off Greek defender Kostas Manolas and into the back of the net. And as good as the celebration was, the call from Colombia might have been just as good.
NO FALCAO, NO PROBLEM: Before Saturday’s game, much of the discussion was how Colombia would replace star striker Radamel Falcoa, who’s out of commission with a torn ACL. One of the players Los Cafeteros hoped to lean on is Gutiérrez – who rose to the occasion with a 58th-minute goal on a corner kick from Rodriguez and great flick from Abel Aguilar. And no player is more important to the Colombia attack than Rodríguez, whose stoppage-time goal put an exclamation mark on the victory.
AMERICAN (REF) SHINES IN BELO HORIZONTE: While the first couple of days had its share of controversies, the Colombia-Greece match avoided any officiating problems. For that, we can thank MLS referee Mark Geiger. As the first American to ref a World Cup match since 2002, Geiger never lost control of the match, issuing yellow cards when warranted but properly not calling a penalty when Greece’s Georgios Samaras went down in the box (a call that even Samaras agreed with).
ON THE ATTACK BUT UNABLE TO SCORE: Perhaps because they fell behind so early, defensive-minded Greece controlled the run of play for much of the first half and nearly tied the game right before the break – but Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina absolutely robbed Panagiotis Kone in the 45th minute. Greece missed another big opportunity early in the second half when Theofanis Gekas hit the crossbar on a wide-open header. Greece have failed to score in six of their seven World Cup games.
MAN OF THE MATCH: James Rodríguez, one of the key players needed to replace Falcao, dictated play and had a hand in all three of Colombia’s goals.