After the thrilling finish between Chile and Brazil earlier in the day, it felt as if our collective hearts had just returned to their normal rates when it was time for the second game of the day to begin. Yesterday, the match between Colombia and Uruguay seemed to be for a rather dubious honor: That of losing to Brazil in the next round. Having watched Brazil struggle against an impressively valiant, although ultimately outmatched, Chilean side surely gave both Colombia and Uruguay a glimmer of hope that today’s match would not be their penultimate 90 minutes of their 2014 World Cup campaign.
The question now remained: Which side would take this motivation and use it to drive themselves to victory? It became clear well before James Rodriguez’s first goal gave Colombia a lead that would last through the remaining 62 minutes that it would Los Cafeteros who would step up. The match started with the two teams grappling for position as a cynical and physical Uruguay side did its best to batter the spirits of the upstart Colombian side. Through the first twenty minutes or so, Uruguay seemed to adopt a tactic of using brute force to overcome the absence of star striker Luis Suarez. Without Suarez there to dominate the opponent’s half of the field and wreak havoc on their defense, Uruguay did their best to dominate their own half of the field and keep the ball away from Colombia’s young starlets.
Unfortunately for Uruguay, there is no strategy to prevent a goal like James Rodriguez’s. It was truly a piece of footballing art, as he played the ball perfectly off of his chest on to the laces of his boot and drove the ball to the exact place it needed to be. It was such an electrifying goal that it completely deflated what had been up to that point a spirited Uruguayan side playing sans their best player. As amazing as Robin Van Persie’s header or Lionel Messi’s game-winner were earlier in the tournament, Rodriguez’s goal somehow seems to stand apart from those. There was something intangible and transcendent about watching a boy become a man with a simple swing of the foot, an entire nation’s hopes and a player’s career living and dying by the arc of the ball.
Colombia did not rest on their laurels after this, though. They continued to play crafty football that kept the older (and boy did they look old) Uruguayan side on their heels. Coming out of the half, they seemed to have a fury and vigor about them for which Uruguay’s experience was no match. Just four minutes into the half, lightning struck a second time as Rodriguez put the ball in the back of the net again to become this tournament’s leading scorer. Two beautiful crosses spread out Uruguay’s defense and they found themselves not only outnumbered in the penalty area but also out played.
Minutes after the second goal, Jon Champion commented that it felt like the “End of an era” for Uruguay. Diego Forlan would leave the pitch shortly after in favor of Christian Stuani; most likely marking the end of Forlan’s tenure with Uruguay. (Today marked his 112th cap for Uruguay, the most all time.) There was a notable poignancy about Uruguay after this, despite playing a spirited final 47 minutes in the face of sure defeat, it seemed as if Uruguay had heard Champion’s earlier comments and agreed with him. The pathos felt not just by Uruguayans but also likely by soccer fans all over the world (myself included) was even starker when placed next to the rising star that is Colombia. As one South American dynasty potentially begins its descent into the valley, another one surely seems to be rising to the mountaintop. If I’m Brazil, Colombia’s next opponent, I am very scared about that.