BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil: James Rodriguez rounded off a convincing 3-0 win for Colombia over Greece as the South Americans made light of the absence of injured striker Radamel Falcao in their opening Group C match at the World Cup yesterday.
Full-back Pablo Armero had given the Colombians -- appearing at their first finals since 1998 -- the lead in the fifth minute while Teofilo Gutierrez’s 13th goal for his country shortly before the hour mark wrapped up the three points.
Rodriguez, nicknamed the ‘new kid’ as he is seen as the successor to legend Carlos Valderrama, known as ‘the kid’, rounded off an impressive performance with a sweet left footed shot in time added on.
Armero’s goal was the fastest in Colombia’s five appearances at a World Cup finals, beating the 19 minutes it took another defender Francisco Zuluaga to score against Uruguay in the 1962 finals in Chile.
Greece’s Portuguese coach Fernando Santos conceded that the Colombians had been worthy winners.
“They caused us a lot of problems from the opening minutes,” said the 59-year-old.
“We did get back into the game and the end result was a little bit unfair.” It took Colombia just five minutes to send their fans wild.
With Falcao watching from the stands, great work down the right by Juan Cuadrado outwitted the Greek defence and a step over by Gutierrez saw the ball come to Armero.
The 27-year-old fullback fired in a weak shot which took a deflection off a defender and past ‘keeper Orestis Karnezis.
The goal sparked an energetic goalline celebratory dance routine which drew in the players on the bench as well.
Greece, whose leading striker Kostas Mitroglou was left on the bench as he battles for full fitness after suffering a knee injury, had little to offer up front.
However, one bustling run from Celtic’s Georgios Samaras set up Panagiotis Kone but he had to stretch for the ball and his effort curled harmlessly wide.
Kone made a far better fist of it right at the end of the first-half as once again Samaras’s physical approach unnerved the Colombian defence and laid the ball back to his team-mate.
The 26-year-old fired in a powerful shot towards the top right hand corner but Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina produced a superb two handed diving save to deny him. AFP