Photo by Ben Queenborough/ISIPhotos.com
By CARL SETTERLUND
There’s been no bigger storyline in the World Cup so far than the Luis Suarez biting fiasco, but once the Round of 16 matchup between Colombia and Uruguay began it was another gifted attacker who stole the spotlight.
James Rodríguez has been one of the breakout stars of the World Cup, and the 22-year-old outdid himself once again on Saturday. After scoring in each of Colombia’s first three games, he was on double duty against Uruguay, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory in Rio de Janeiro.
The win sends Colombia on into the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time ever. One of the biggest wins in national team history will set up the biggest game in Colombian history as they’ll square off with tournament host Brazil at 4 p.m. Friday at Estádio Castelão in Fortaleza.
The precocious Rodríguez has taken over the lead in the race for the Golden Boot with five goals. That puts him ahead of the trio of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Thomas Muller with four goals apiece. Rodríguez has played a part in seven of the Colombia’s 11 goals so far at the World Cup.
The Monaco man also entered the conversation for goal of the tournament with a 28th-minute golazo that he sent off the crossbar and in from about 25 yards out. Abel Aguilar headed it over to Rodríguez, who chested the ball down and struck a beauty out of the air with his golden left foot.
There was no blame to be had on the part of Uruguayan keeper Fernando Muslera (2 saves), who did well just to get his fingertips on the shot before it went off the crossbar and in.
Rodríguez struck again in the 50th minute, this time with a far simpler finish.
Pablo Armero came forward to serve it in from the left edge of the box, and Juan Cuadrado got on the other end at the far post, heading it back in front of goal for Rodríguez to bang home. Adding a slight degree of difficulty was that the finish came via his right foot. Rodríguez is a lefty.
Even without Suarez, who was suspended for biting a player in Uruguay’s group stage win over Italy, Uruguay didn’t exit quietly, managing 16 shots. But the Colombian back line was able to limit the quality of those chances as only four of them went on target.
Uruguay bows out in the Round of 16 after having made the semifinals in the 2010 World Cup.
Meanwhile, Group C champion Colombia improved to 4-0 in this World Cup, surpassing its total number of wins in previous World Cups. The Colombians had only ever advanced to the knockout stage once before in 1990 (Round of 16). They’ve only won one major competition before, the Copa América in 2001, but there’s little denying that Colombia has caught fire this year down in Brazil.
What did you think of the match? Has Rodríguez been the player of the tournament? How far can Colombia go? Is Suarez’s absence the blame for Uruguay’s poor showing?
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