Colombia celebrated its return to the World Cup after a 16-year absence with a convincing 3-0 victory here Saturday afternoon over Greece.
The outcome of the Group C match at Mineirao stadium in this southeastern city was never in doubt, as Colombia opened the scoring shortly after kick-off, added an insurance goal at the 58-minute mark and put the icing on their victory with an injury-time strike.
Although the Colombians lost the ball-possession battle, they still managed to put constant pressure on Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis and that aggression paid off almost immediately.
In the sixth minute, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado dribbled around a Greek defender on the right side and centered the ball; James Rodriguez let it roll to Pablo Armero, whose right-footed shot went past the goal line off the foot of Greece’s Konstantinos Manolas.
It was Colombia’s 15th goal in a World Cup match and its fastest-ever score in soccer’s biggest international showcase, beating a record set in 1962.
Greece was forced to go on the attack and seek out the tying goal and it nearly got it shortly before halftime when net minder David Ospina made an outstanding save of a strike off the right foot of Panagiotis Kone.
Colombia’s second goal then came at the 58-minute mark when Abel Aguilar delicately deflected a corner kick to Teofilo Gutierrez, who knocked the ball into the back of the net from point-blank range.
Greek coach Fernando Santos made three substitutions in the second half to try to generate some offense, but instead it was Colombia getting one final goal in injury time off the foot of Rodriguez.
Colombia will next square off against Ivory Coast on Thursday at Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha in Brasilia, while Greece will take on Japan that same day at Arena das Dunas in the northeastern city of Natal.
Prior to those games, Ivory Coast and Japan will play the second Group C match late Saturday night at Arena Pernambuco in the northeastern city of Recife.