Photo: Colombia vs Uruguay
A pair of goals by emerging superstar James Rodriguez gave Colombia a 2-0 victory Saturday over Uruguay and earned the South American country its first-ever World Cup quarterfinal berth.
The Uruguayans came into the match at Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Maracana Stadium with a chip on their shoulder after Luis Suarez was given a nine-match international ban for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in Group D action Tuesday, but the loss of their star striker proved too much against Jose Pekerman’s talented squad.
Both teams began the match at an unhurried pace, patiently looking to mount their attacks in this round of 16 knockout match.
But when it seemed that the crowd of 73,804 might have to wait a while for the action to heat up, Rodriguez produced one of the most scintillating goals of the 2014 World Cup Brazil in the 28th minute.
The play started with midfielder Abel Aguilar lofting a ball in the direction of forward Jackson Martinez, who was standing just outside Uruguay’s penalty area.
Uruguayan defender Maxi Pereira tried to clear the ball but it went back to Aguilar, who headed to Rodriguez.
The 22-year-old midfielder proceeded to bounce the ball off his chest to give himself some space and then, without letting it hit the ground, fired a left-footed rocket from 25 yards out that hit the crossbar over the outstretched arm of net minder Fernando Muslera and ricocheted into the goal.
It was Rodriguez’s fourth goal of the World Cup and tied him for the tournament lead along with Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Brazil’s Neymar and Germany’s Thomas Müller.
But the AS Monaco star was not done yet.
Just five minutes into the second half, midfielder Juan Guillermo Cuadrado received a cross from defender Pablo Armero and headed it back across the box to Rodriguez, who knocked a right-footed shot into a practically empty net for his tournament-leading fifth goal.
Nearly an entire half of soccer still remained to be played but Uruguay, lacking Suarez’s firepower, was unable to cut into the lead against a well-organized defense backed by stellar goalkeeper David Ospina.
Next up for this history-making Colombian squad will be host nation Brazil, which topped Chile on penalties earlier Saturday.
That quarterfinal clash will be played Friday at Castelao Stadium in the northeastern city of Fortaleza.