BUENOS AIRES — Uruguayan radio personality Sergio Gorzy went off on Colombia and its soccer team after Uruguay lost 4-0 to Los Cafeteros at Barranquilla in World Cup qualifying play back in 2012. His anger was so extreme that he started talking about how soccer in Colombia was being run by “drug dealers” and how Colombia was “backwards” due to the tricks that they had up their sleeves to get the upper hand against the visitors.
His rant was sparked after Uruguayan players and coaches mentioned that their locker room was without working air conditioning amid the scorching heat of the Barranquilla summer.
Gorzy’s comments created a major uproar from the Colombian press and many fans. His comments were on the front page of several dailies throughout Colombian and had radio stations with phone lines burning with fans wanting to give Gorzy a piece of their mind. The backlash was so extreme that the Uruguayan journalist had to issue a public apology on a simulcast of his daily radio show with various networks in Colombia.
“This is why Colombia’s trophy cases the way they do- empty. They have one Narco Cup that they won back in 2001 where Argentina could have scored six goals on them on any pitch. They didn’t go play with their stars to play with those savages while Uruguay and Brazil went with alternate sides. That’s how Colombia won their lone little title they won in their lives. Colombian clubs, only through drug trafficking, were able to obtain money to buy a bunch of stars to get to the finals of Copa Libertadores and then lose them.”
That story is like many other South American rivalries. There are always chapters that stand out and give some morbidity to any potential tie. In the case of Uruguay and Colombia there are interesting stories that make it such a compelling encounter in the 2014 World Cup knockout stage and there is a history that it brings into Saturday’s encounter (4pm ET/1pm PT kickoff).
Uruguay ironically was the team that gave the Colombians their first-ever World Cup experience back in 1962 in Chile. Many of the Colombian players were overwhelmed and star struck to see players like Luis Cubilla, Nestor Sasia, Nestor Gonçalves and Pedro Rocha. The match ended in a 2-1 victory for La Celeste as the team coached by Juan Carlos Corazzo had to come from behind in Africa with goals by Cubilla an Sasia. An interesting tie-in to Saturday’s game at the Maracanã for Diego Forlán, as his grandson will play in that match.
Colombia then won their first-ever qualifier on the road back in 1973 when they defeated Uruguay 1-0 at the Estadio Centenario. The brilliance of Willington Ortíz was seen in a goal where he weaved around the Uruguayan defense and Atlético Mineiro goalkeeper Ladislao Mazurkiewicz as they came away with the historic win. Uruguay ended up getting the last laugh as they went to the World Cup while the Colombians missed out for a fourth consecutive tournament.
South America matches are amongst the most intense and in recent years we’ve seen that there have been two teams, Uruguay and Colombia who fought for the same spot in the three previous World Cup qualifying cycles and left them a step away. Back in 2002, the Colombians were behind by a goal from surpassing Uruguay. Their 4-0 win against Paraguay in Asunción was still not enough as the Charrúas advanced to the World Cup after beating Australia in the playoff. In September of 2005, Colombia were on the verge of knocking out Uruguay from the World Cup.
The Uruguayans were on the verge of seeing their World Cup dream come to a premature end although their goalscorer, Marcelo Zalayeta was causing all types of problems for the Colombian defense. The crowd in Montevideo’s Estadio Centenario willed their team on and hoped for a miracle. All of a sudden, Zalayeta beat the defense on a long ball and his hat-trick secured a 3-2 victory and left Colombians all over lamenting what was the possibility of facing Australia.
In the end, Uruguay did not qualify and both sides were watching the World Cup from their TV sets. For Colombia it was a much more bitter pill as they ended up a point away from that playoff spot. Although if you talk to Uruguayans, they will tell you that getting knocked out by Australia in penalties was a blow that would need four years to get over.
It was a bitter pill for Colombians, because for a second consecutive qualifier, Colombian saw themselves helplessly watching their last chance stray while Uruguay and Argentina “helped each other out” with a convenient result for both.
Fast forward to 2012 and Uruguay were facing a Colombian squad that was looking to recover from a poor start to the qualifying campaign. José Pekerman was getting some criticism at this point from the Colombian press and that was when national team turned up with one of the most brilliant performances of the qualifying process. It was also the match that turned things around for the Colombians and sunk the Uruguayans into an unbelievable slump.
That would change when both sides met in Montevideo in September of 2012 when José María Giménez would make his international debut and it was Christian Stuani that helped Uruguay win at home and help Uruguay position themselves for the playoff spot, while preventing Colombia from celebrating their World Cup qualification.
This tie will undoubtedly be one of the main attractions of the round of 16 not just for its potential talent but also the morbid state of the headlines that have surrounded this matchup in the past 24 hours. Of course, because of the Luis Suárez fiasco, the Colombians have received some grief. Some even looked in the Uruguayan press were looking at Colombia at this old opponent that they know very well as their first rallying point to win the World Cup “for Luisito”.
While all the eyes of the world will be on the men in sky blue, the pressure will be off Colombia somewhat. There will be a great deal of intrigue as to how the Uruguayans
will come out. Should things not go their way, there will be some complications for La Celeste and that could lend itself for the Colombians to attack. The big question is, how will Uruguay attack and will this offer a chance for Edinson Cavani to have the chances to make a difference in this match. There will have to be other heroes that will have to emerge for Uruguay. Diego Forlán, who at 35, will have to emulate his 2010 form in order to see Uruguay come away victorious.
In the end, nothing is easy for Uruguay and the possibility to “go after those that got Luis suspended” will be what helps them push forward. One thing is for sure, Uruguay will battle until the end and Colombia are ready to match them blow for blow as they have proven they can handle these types of situations both in qualifiers as well as tight spots in this World Cup.
Colombia are well aware of this and they know that this is their toughest match to date in the World Cup. This is why all the experience that these players have accumulated will have to be put to good use against a veteran team that is wounded and looking to inflict mortal wounds.
Despite missing Luis Suárez, Uruguay will expect to bring out their mystique as well as their “us against the world” rallying cry to motivate them on to victory. Meanwhile this match will be historic for the Colombians as a win would put them in a position they have never been in before. More importantly, a win in the Maracanã, their biggest win ever, would be in the same stadium that the Uruguayans had theirs 64 years ago.