If they weren’t already, Colombia may just have emerged as the neutral’s favourite, particularly since Chile met a sticky end earlier Saturday evening. Taking on the 2014 World Cup’s pantomime villains in Uruguay, they cruised to a victory earned through skill, flair, and the talents of the emergent frontrunner for the player of the tournament, James Rodriguez.
The AS Monaco midfielder put in his most stunning performance of the tournament yet to liven up what would otherwise have been a very tight, close encounter. Opening the scoring midway through the first half with a sensational volley, the playmaker then went on to score the killer goal in the second half to put his team 2-0 ahead and on the road to the quarterfinals.
The first half was a tense affair more fitting of classic World Cup football rather than the anarchic, end-to-end displays that have characterised this tournament and were on show in the earlier game. Uruguay looked as disjointed as they have done throughout the tournament and lacked the spark that Luis Suarez could provide, with Edinson Cavani looking a shadow of his former self. But they were defending robustly, looking well-organised, and beginning to frustrate Colombia.
But just as the World Cup is about defining moments as much as tense and negative football, we got one of the goals of the tournament from the player of the tournament so far. Rodriguez arrived at the edge of the area as a Colombia attack was half-cleared. As the ball fell to him, he swiveled, brought it down on his chest and whacked a magnificent 20-yard dipping volley in off the crossbar to put his team ahead.
Just five minutes into the second half, Rodriguez struck again. It was a far less spectacular effort but a no less important one. Pablo Armero’s cross was headed into the centre of the penalty area by the otherwise quiet Juan Cuadrado, and Rodriguez pounced to slide it home from close range.
Uruguay weren’t totally beaten. They had a brief period of attempting a late rally with efforts from Maxi Pereira and Edinson Cavani going close, but Colombia weren’t to be beaten. This was Rodriguez’s night, but it was also Colombia’s. After another disappointing Brazil performance, they are the only team who are playing at this tournament with genuine skill and flair while also looking comfortable enough to, whisper it, actually win the thing. This was only a 2-0 win, but Uruguay were well-beaten two nil. All hail the new King James.
Colombia: Ospina, Armero, Yepes, Zapata, Zuniga; Rodriguez (Ramos 85′), Sanchez, Aguilar, Cuadrado (Guarin 81′); Gutierrez (Mejia 68′), Martinez
Goals: Rodriguez (28′, 50′)
Uruguay: Muslera; Godin, Caceres, Gimenez; A. Pereira (Ramirez 53′), Rodriguez, Rios, Gonzalez (Hernandez 67′), M. Pereira; Forlan (Stuani 53′), Cavani.