FIFA 2014


Suarez’s absence leaves the team rudderless

Uruguay have followed Luis Suarez in departing the World Cup, though unlike their talismanic striker they need not be consumed by shame at this exit.

The nation’s outrage at the sanction handed to Suarez will still be smouldering upon arrival in Montevideo but, if the sense of fury ever subsides, they may concede it was a Colombian genius rather than the actions of a flawed one of their own who dispatched them from the tournament. James Rodriguez was afforded a deafening reception upon his departure five minutes from time, the tournament’s leading scorer having scored the goals that eased his wonderfully impressive side into a quarterfinal against Brazil on Friday.

Rodriguez, 22, had arrived at the tournament with his reputation established at Porto and after a year at Monaco, where he had cost the French club £40m, yet his effervescent displays at these finals are already making that fee seem a bargain. No opponent to date has found a way of stopping Colombia’s principal playmaker.

Brazil do not have long to come up with a plan. He glides with such menace, his touch sublime and awareness almost unnatural for one gracing these finals for the first time. This team purred when Rodriguez found space and time on the ball at the Maracana, his movement clever as he interchanged with a fluid and potent front line.

Juan Cuadrado is flourishing at his side. Jackson Martinez is aggressive, eager and clever in positioning and delivery. Teofilo Gutierrez appears willing to offer up selfless industry as the furthest forward of an impressive front-line.

And to think their number might have been complemented by Radamel Falcao, Rodriguez’s team-mate at the Stade Louis II and himself a £60m striker recently considered this team’s stellar talent.

While the team’s nine-goal inspiration from qualification continues his rehabilitation from a knee ligament injury on holiday in Florida, his compatriots are running riot. This game had ambled along cagily for almost half-an-hour, Uruguay tigerishly setting about stifling any hint of Colombian ascendancy, when Abel Aguilar nodded the ball forward to Rodriguez, loitering with his back to goal in a pocket of space just outside the Uruguay penalty area.

There was no obvious threat developing, no reason for the experienced Diego Godin to sense danger. Yet El Nuevo Pibe (The New Kid) flashed a quick glance at goal to make certain of his bearings before, as Godin and Maxi Pereira edged forward half-heartedly in anticipation of a block if required, collecting the ball on his chest and dispatching his shot left-footed on the volley. The attempt dipped gloriously, a startled Fernando Muslera leaping to his right only for the ball to graze the fingertips of his right hand and kiss the underside of the crossbar before entering the net.

“It was one of the greatest goals the World Cup has ever seen,” said Oscar Tabarez, the Uruguay manager going on to compare Rodriguez to Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi and, pointedly, Suarez. “He’s the best player in the World Cup, I don’t think I’m exaggerating.”

Where that first had been reward conjured from thin air, a goal to defy belief, his second was constructed with the kind of slick precision that truly drains the hope from opponents.

Uruguay were powerless to steal possession and, eventually, Pablo Armero marauded forward in support to accept possession on the charge and cross to the far post where Cuadrado carefully headed back and across, and an unmarked Rodriguez tapped in.

Cuadrado’s fourth assist of the tournament had provided the No.10’s fifth goal, this contest settled thereafter with Colombia able to ease through the remainder of the tie in relative comfort. Los Cafeteros are now unbeaten in 11 games. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2014

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 6:45:35 PM |

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