When Radamel Falcao was injured in that fateful Coupe de France match back in January, the overall emotion in Colombia dipped to a low. There seemed to be a deflated sense of value to the overall squad as if the team was knocked off a pedestal.
There were other injuries that exacerbated that sentiment when Edwin Valencia, Amaranto Perea and Aldo Leao Ramírez were also taken off the squad due to injury days before flying into their Cotía complex. Yet all the doom and gloom seemed to have gone by the wayside after what happened on the pitch.
Fast forward to Brazil and the Colombia national team have been one of the most supported sides in the World Cup and have also shown a new side in this sans-Falcao era.
The players knew that their contributions were going to be vital and their team unity had to be greater than ever. This you saw a great deal in both matches, showing the unity and desire to look for the greatness that José Pekerman has made them believe they can achieve.
After the match against Cote D’Ivoire, coach José Pekerman said that his team showed it has enough “heart and courage to endure difficulties.” The team faced a tough battle in some instances against Ivory Coast, but were able to overcome the Ivorians on the counter attack. For the second consecutive match, this side showed promise but that they’re still learning as they evolve.
For everyone, except goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón, this was the maiden voyage in a World Cup. So for every World Cup instance, every play, every goal scored and conceded is a new experience.
“The team is mentally strong and all the players showed a great deal of form which was important for the team’s play,” added Pekerman.
For a second consecutive match, Colombia lost the possession battle. There were times they dropped back too much and, unlike against Greece, Cote D’Ivoire is a squad that can make a team pay in a big way. Still, for a second consecutive match, Colombia showed how lethal they can be with the ball at their feet.
Colombia, showed that they can also muscle in their corner kicks when Juan Guillermo Cuadrado delivered a ball and James Rodríguez headed it to the near post once more to give Los Cafeteros the lead.
While Colombia didn’t have the majority of possession, they knew when to make things complicated for the opposition. A mistake by Serey Die ended up at the feet of Teófilo Gutiérrez and Juan Fernando Quintero netted his first career goal in a World Cup. That goal made him the second youngest player in Colombian soccer history to achieve such a feat.
Yet there was something in the air that made you aware that Cote D’Ivoire still had something up their sleeve as Didier Drogba came on, and you saw “that light” turn on. Despite Gervinho’s goal, Colombia were still able to overcome and take over the top spot in Group C. If Colombia advances to the Knockout Round, they’ll return to a place where they haven’t been in nearly a quarter of a century.
Colombia showed fight. They showed the guts to continue pressing forward and make it possible to complicate things for other sides, although they are still a work in progress.
These players underwent a crash course in experience that few teams have undergone in Colombian soccer history. Yet on this day, they’ve already accomplished more than any side ever. Their second win raised the bar for future teams and their legacy, which was what Pekerman always talked about, is being strengthened with every day. They did it against all the adversity they faced and a true belief in what they were able to do despite what many believed that they couldn’t do without their talismanic forward and three other key starters that got them to Colombia in the first place.