It wasn’t as thrilling as Netherlands’ 5-1 victory over Spain, and it wasn’t quite as pretty as Chile beating Australia 3-1, but watching Colombia beat Greece 3-0 on Saturday was still quite fun. Colombia’s back line will likely not be able to stop the top teams at the World Cup, but their offense certainly had no trouble slicing through Greece’s vaunted defense.
In the pre-match press conference, Fernando Santos insisted that defending was not the most important element of the Greece national team. Good thing, too, because after just five minutes, Colombia had taken the lead.
Juan Cuadrado, showing all the pace that prompted Fiorentina fans to dub the winger “Vespa”, zipped up the right to latch on to a through-ball. Cuadrao then sent a low cross into the area, looking, it seemed, for James Rodríguez. But the midfielder pulled off the perfect dummy, confusing the Greek defenders and, possibly his own teammate Pablo Armero. Armero got a touch to the ball, but had little power behind it. No matter – it deflected off Kostas Manolas and began rolling toward the back of the net. Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis could only watch in horror as the ball crossed the line.
Greece had no choice but to get forward in defiance of all stereotypes thrown at them since 2004. To almost everyone’s surprise, they very nearly equalized immediately – possibly because Colombia were still pondering the choreography of the full-squad dance party they’d hosted after the goal. But Georgios Samaras sent his shot wide, and Colombia escaped.
As Colombia slowed down, taking for granted that they had control of the match, Greece pushed harder and harder. But despite being able to slip easily enough behind the cafeteros defense, Greece just couldn’t put their shots on target. The best shot of the half came just before the whistle, when Panagiotis Kone pounced on a loose ball to put in a sharp shot. David Ospina pushed it aside, however, and Colombia went into the second half up 1-0.
After the restart, the Pirate Ship continued its leisurely path toward goal, but were soon undone once more by Colombia. In the 58th minute, James whipped in a corner, and Abel Aguilar got a touch. Teófilo Gutiérrez, totally unmarked, got a toe on it, chipping the ball over Karnezis to put Colombia up 2-0.
Greece had a terrific chance to equalize five minutes later, with Colombia’s defense completely caught out. Giannis Fetfatzidis, whose fresh legs replaced the aging limbs of Dimitris Salpingidis shortly before Colombia’s second goal, was free at the far post. He headed on to Theofanis Gekas who, despite being less than twenty feet out, smacked his header against the crossbar.
Gekas reward was to be replaced moments later by Kostas Mitroglou.
The changes mattered little for Greece, however. Instead, Colombia put in an insurance goal just before the final whistle – and a lovely one at that. James slipped easily through two Greek defenders to get on the end of a backheeled pass. Karnezis got a hand to it, but could only help it along into the back of the net.
Should Ivory Coast and Japan make even greater fools of Greece, that extra goal could come in handy for determining Group C’s rankings come the end of this round.
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Columbia: Ospina; Zuniga, Zapata, Yepes, Armero (Arias 73); Sanchez, Aguilar; Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Ibarbo; Gutierrez (Martinez 75)
Goals: Armero 5′; Gutierrez 58′; Rodriguez 90′
Greece: Kamezis; Manolas, Torosidis, Papastathopolous, Holebas; Maniatis, Kone (Karagounis 78), Katsouranis; Salpingidis (Fetfatzidis 57), Gekas (Mitroglou 63), Samaras