Colombia Rolls Over Japan, Advances to Round of 16

James and Pekerman
Don't worry, we've got James.
James chips it over the keeper.
James chips it over the keeper.

I was nine years old 24 years ago when Colombia advanced to the Round of 16 at the 1990 Italy World Cup.

We were immigrants living in southern California. Despite being thousands of miles away from Colombia I remember that our excitement and passion was still strong.

Today Colombia has finally done it again. On Tuesday, June 24, Colombia faced Japan in their final group stage game in the 2014 World Cup.

Despite having already qualified for the Round of 16 with their previous two wins over Greece and the Ivory Coast Colombia came out to win, in order to qualify at the top of their group.

Colombia looked shaky in the first half

Japan out shot Colombia 23 to 13, had 9 corner kicks to Colombia’s 2, held the ball 56 percent of the time, yet Colombia “goleó” a Japan.

The verb “golear” has no direct translation to English. It means to hammer someone in soccer, and that’s exactly what Colombia did last Tuesday, despite a trying first half.

I knew there would be line up changes this game, but I did not know that the team would struggle so badly.

The first 45 minutes were reminiscent of a Colombian team of years ago: defending for most of the half, not knowing what to do with it in the midfield, turning it over continuously, having good players who shine individually but do not play well together, etc.

Thanks to Juan Cuadrado’s individual skill he was able to break loose, and draw a foul inside the 18 yard box and have a penalty shot awarded. Cuadrado was quick to take the ball in his hand and set up for the penalty.

He had a cold look of determination, and as I sat with my brother I told him how utterly confident I felt about him taking the penalty. You could just feel his intensely focused determination.

As predicted at the 17th minute Cuadrado coolly hammered the penalty kick into the back of the net.

Las Torres de Bombona

Due to a very long “puente” (three-day weekend, I partied all way too much with my brother and sister, who were here from California) I decided to watch this one at one of the bars in my apartment complex.

I live in El Centro, at a place called Las Torres de Bombona. It is a 35-year-old three tower (20 stories each) complex with bars, restaurants, and stores on the first floor. There is a parking garage and theater in the basement.

Owing to its armed security guards that roam the complex and its alternative college crowd it is arguably the safest place in downtown.

Pekerman shows his stuff in the second half

At the start of the second half Pekerman really showed the world that he is a world-class soccer coach.

He subbed in James Rodriguez and Carlos Carbonero to replace Juan Quintero and Juan Cuadrado (the author of the first goal). Subbing out Cuadrado looked questionable to me, but then again that is why they call Pekerman “el profe.”

With our star player (and one of the World Cup’s leading scorers) in the team looked completely different. James plays midfield, he has grace and talent for ball placement.

At the 55th minute he placed a perfect long ball to Jackson Martinez who tucked it in past the Japanese goaltender. In my intro to the World Cup blog post, I wrote how I felt shaky about Jackson’s placement in the lineup.

I believe that this first goal has awoken a sleeping giant, look out for him in the next game versus Uruguay, I would not be surprised if he started that game over Teófilo Gutiérrez.

Jackson Martinez Goal vs japan
Jackson cuts back then bends it.

Beautiful goals

At this point Pekerman’s boys were cruising, defending everything Japan threw at them and creating counter attack chances.

At the 82nd minute, on a counter attack, Jackson received another ball inside the 18 yard box while on the run, he controlled the ball and cut back to his left, swung his left leg back, caught the ball with the inside of his foot for maximum bend, and beat the keeper for an absolute stunner of a goal.

James Rodriguez Goal against Japan
James dances around the defender then chips it over the keeper.

Not to be outshined James Rodriguez sealed Colombia’s victory with another gem.

Anything that I write could not do this masterpiece justice. So I leave you with the clip above.

2014 World Cup Second Stage
World Cup Second Stage

Colombia vs. Uruguay

This is the way the second stage brackets line up.

Colombia faces Uruguay on June 28 at 3:00 p.m. Colombia time. And it should be a great game.

As a result of Uruguay’s top striker Luis Suárez’s suspension, over his infamous “bite,” Colombia now has an even greater chance of beating them.

Jackson Martinez
Jackson Martinez

Ojo (Look out)

I believe that Pekerman will go with his top line up, the same line up he went with for the first two games, with one change. Jackson Martínez to replace Teófilo Gutiérrez.

Why? Because Jackson is stronger, faster, and more lethal in the box. He led the Portuguese league in goals scored last season with 26, and his team, F.C. Oporto, were league champs. He’s currently being scouted by top European clubs.

He’s just a beast, the world hasn’t seen anything yet, he just needed to shake off those nerves. Now that he has scored two goals…weak defenders beware!

For Uruguay, it is tough to say who will start at the striker position in place of the banned Luis Suarez. We have to remember that Diego Forlan is on their bench, four years ago he won the Golden Ball trophy in the 2010 World Cup.

The Gold Ball is given to the tournament’s most valuable player. He’s incredibly talented and has experience in big games. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start.

I’m looking forward to watching Colombia beat Uruguay. I have Colombia beating Uruguay 3 – 1 on my “polla” (pool).

Vamos Colombia!

It’s hard to describe the feeling that I get when I watch Colombia or the U.S. play.

I feel sorry for those who have never had this intense feeling that makes you pace nervously, jump in exhilaration, scream until your voice is lost, laugh to break tension, cry to release pain or pleasure.

It’s a silly little game, where 22 guys chase a ball around and try to put it in a frame, yet I can’t help but love it to death.

As I play on my own football team here in Medellín I dream of being on the grand stage, the World Cup, like I did when I was a child.

Soccer is like a religion for some, but for me it’s a memory of playing it and watching it with my brother and my father, a dream, a momentary escape from reality, bliss.

Colombia will win on Saturday, and I will be surrounded by friends and family. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I will. Vamos con todo mi seleccion!

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