Man of the Match: Within the last year, Teofilo Gutierrez has been released by one club (Argentina’s Racing) for threatening teammates with a paint gun, another (Launs) for lying about being on international duty. On Friday, Gutierrez turned our attention back to the field, scoring two early second half goals to help Colombia hand Uruguay their first loss of CONMEBOL qualifying.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Both sides were missing one crucial part to suspension. Luis Suarez was out for Uruguay. Defender Mario Yepes sat for Colombia.
- The sides initially set up such that Colombia right back Juan Camilo Zuniga and Uruguay left back Alvaro Pereira had a flank to themselves. Diego Pérez, Uruguay’s left-most midfielder, was tucked inside, while Colombia coach Jose Pekerman had his team leaning away from that flank, with deep midfielder Edwin Valencia shading to the right in attack.
- The match’s opening goal came from that abandoned flank. Two minutes in, Zuniga was able to get forward and challenge Pereira, cutting back onto his left foot before putting in a cross. Gutierrez whiffed on a shot, allowing the ball to roll through to Radamel Falcao, who put the home side ahead from nine yards out.
- The rest of the half was played to a stalemate. Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina had some nervy moments coming off his line, but nothing came of it. Falcao had one more shot on goal, while James Rodríguez, playing as a left winger, was a non-factor over the first 45.
- Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez changed things up at halftime, bringing on Alvaro Gonzalez to add an attacking presence down the right side. Mauricio Victorino came off, leaving Maxi Pereira to hold down the flank’s defense.
- Colombia made a slight tweak of their own, one which combined with Tabarez’s to give the home side their second goal. Rodríguez started the half playing right of Falcao, sending Gutierrez left. The move brought Rodriguez closer to the middle of the field.
- Three minutes into the half, the move bore fruit. Two of one-touch passes between Falcao and Rodriguez gave Gutierrez a chance to beat Maxi Pereira on a run from the left. Rodriguez found him with a through ball ahead of Gutierrez’s first goal.
- Minutes later, Rodríguez was back on the left, leading a counter that ended with a ball played just above the six. Gutíerrez beat Alvaro Pereira for his second goal of the afternoon.
- In stoppage time, Zuniga added a goal to his second minute assist, leaving a final scoreline that will be one of the more memorable in Colombian soccer history.
- The final goal (just like the Colombia’s first and third) can at the expense of Alvaro Pereira, usually one of Uruguay’s best players. It’s hard to remember when a player of his stature had such a difficult game.
- Uruguay, South America’s reigning champions, came into this match with the world’s number four ranking and an undefeated qualifying record, so the lopsided result of the final will pop some eyes. But random blowouts are endemic to South America qualifiers, and while this result sends Uruguay crashing back to Earth, there’s no reason for alarm. Yet.
- For Colombia, however, it’s a huge statement of intent. Particularly with Pekerman coming on board, there’s been an expectation that the team will qualify for the World Cup. But with only 4.5 spots to be handed out between Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, a number of talented teams won’t make the cut.
- Before today, it was unclear what distinguished Colombia from the pack. Now we know what they’re capable of doing.