President Juan Manuel Santos has declared Friday, July 4, a civic holiday, according to El Colombiano newspaper.
President Santos wants the whole country to cheer on the Colombian national team in their quarterfinal encounter with host Brazil in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It is going to be spectacular.
Twenty years ago (July 2, 1994, to be exact), Andrés “El Caballero del Futbol” Escobar was gunned down in Parque Lleras.
If you know anything about soccer or Colombian history you are already familiar with the tragic story of Andrés (no relation to Pablo).
He scored an own goal in the 1994 U.S. World Cup in a first round game versus the United States, costing Colombia the game and qualification into the next round.
I hate that story. I was there at that game. I met Andrés along with the whole 1994 Colombian squad that year (I recount that glorious day in my first blog post, Colombia in the 2014 World Cup). I cannot stand that this is part of my country’s sporting history, but it is.
Andrés was a great defender who played here in Medellín for Club Atlético Nacional. He is now a football legend not only in Colombia, but worldwide.
Colombia faced Uruguay last Saturday, June 28, at 3 p.m. Colombian time.
My brother and I started our day off at 10 a.m. with a big “calentao” breakfast here in El Centro, at a restaurant across the street from my building.
Once our bellies were nice and full we headed over to friend Joel Duncan’s apartment in Poblado. Here we had a pre-pre-game shot of Ron Medellín and got pumped for the day’s activities with some choreographed salsa, Colombian national team celebration style.
Brazil vs. Chile
We watched the Brazil versus Chile game in front of the liquor store by the statues in Parque Lleras.
We bought a liter of Ron Medellín, a gallon of Canada Dry, and some cups with ice. Total price came out to be around 35,000 pesos ($18). A hell of a lot less than buying a liter in any bar nearby.
On paper it seemed as if Brazil would cruise by Chile into the quarterfinals, but this World Cup has been full of surprises.
Chile played their heart out, and their goalie was a hero. After 90 minutes the game was tied at 1-1. They went into an extra 30 minutes of overtime where neither team was able to score.
Penalties ensued. Both teams had terrible penalty kicking. Brazil managed to put three out of the five penalties away, where Chile only managed two. Chile goes home and Brazil goes on.
Colombia vs. Uruguay
This was a game for the ages, and without a doubt the greatest day of my life. (I’m not married and I have no children.)
As I predicted in my previous post, Colombia Rolls Over Japan, Advances to Round of 16, Colombia’s head coach, Jose Pékerman, went with the same lineup as the first two games of the World Cup.
The only difference was that he switched out Víctor Ibarbo for Jackson Martinez. Having two strikers up front, Teófilo Gutiérrez and Jackson Martinez, caused chaos in the Uruguayan backfield.
I often wonder how I will be able to watch soccer matches when I get old. My hands sweat, my blood pressure goes up, and my heart nearly explodes every game.
I try to reason with myself and logically think of it as just a game, that no matter who wins I still have to work the next day, that I still have bills to pay, that I still have a whole life ahead of me, but then things like what happened in the 28th minute of the match completely obliterate all logic and reason.
Midfielder Abel Aguilar headed a poorly-cleared ball by the Uruguayan defense to James Rodriguez, who cushioned the ball with his chest. I gripped my friend Joel’s shoulder in excitement, the ball dropped, he turned his body 90 degrees, I stood up, and before the ball could hit the ground he volleyed it.
The ball screamed a full 24 yards before hitting the bottom of the top post and ricocheting into the goal. I did not know what to do.
Tears streamed down my cheeks as people hugged me, sprayed me with foam, threw corn flower on me and kissed me. I had to watch the replay two more times in order to believe what I had just seen.
The goal is now hailed as the goal of the tournament along with Australian striker Tim Cahill’s goal.
Colombia went into the locker room at half time with a 1 – 0 lead and all of the momentum in the world. We ran to the pisser and straight to the liquor store for a couple more liters of rum.
As the second half started Colombia came out strong, and at the 50th minute on an offensive advance Pablo Armero crossed the bar to the far right post where it found a flying Juan Cuadrado, who headed the ball into the middle of the box where James was waiting like a stalking lion to smash the ball into the goal at point-blank range.
All of Parque Lleras erupted, gunshots rang, babies flew into the air, I got naked…ok maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was pandemonium.
For the rest of the game, Colombia pretty much sat back and held off the Uruguayans who never really could get past three-fourths of the field.
When the final whistle blew, we were all hugging, and jumping for a couple of hours.
By 9:30 p.m. we were so inebriated and tired that my brother and I decided to go back to my apartment in El Centro to take showers and head back out. As soon as we got home we both laid on the couch and never got back up until the next morning.
Colombia vs. Brazil
Colombia squares off against Brazil on Friday, the 4th of July! Again my friends and I will be starting early with a BBQ at the Tiger Paw Hostel, watching the France vs. Germany game (prediction: 2 – 1 France).
Brazil are coming off a very long game against Chile; with a ton of pressure to win, they are both physically and psychologically under the gun.
Colombia on the other hand are coming off a cool 2 – 0 win, with a lot of rest time and psychological momentum.
I think Pekerman will line the team up in the 4 – 5 – 1 formation. James playing behind Jackson will free up Teo. In order to beat Brazil, Colombia has to retain possession, pass accurately and use its wingers. Zuniga and Armero have to come up in support in the wings.
My only concern is Colombia’s “sit back and counter attack” style. Against a team like Brazil this is suicide because of their precession striking.
I predict a 3 – 1 Colombia win. I plan on pacing my self with the Ron Medellín, so as to make it out dancing this time.
Life is great, soccer is awesome and Colombia es tu papa! Que viva Colombia.
To see additional photos of the celebrations in Parque Lleras after Colombia’s 2-0 win over Uruguay, visit the Medellín Living Facebook page.
Several HD videos have also been published on the the YouTube channel.