With two players expected to be the World Cup’s biggest stars watching their teams from afar, a new one was born.
James Rodriguez scored two goals, including quite possibly the tournament’s best strike so far on a chested-volley rocket from distance, to lead Colombia to a 2-0 victory Saturday over Uruguay at the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro and a date with Brazil in the quarterfinals.
In their first World Cup since 1998, Colombia advance to uncharted territory despite playing without star striker Radamel Falcao, who was left off the squad due to injury. But with five goals and two assists in four games for Rodriguez, Falcao clearly hasn’t yet been missed. They'll face the host country on July 4 in Fortaleza.
With their tournament now over, things go from bad to worse for Uruguay following their win over Italy to advance out of the group stage. What followed was the loss of their own star striker, Luis Suarez, after he was suspended Thursday by FIFA for nine international games for biting Giorgio Chiellini.
DANCING WITH THE STAR: If the world didn’t know who Rodriguez is, it does now. The blast from the 22-year-old midfielder was a touch of brilliance and solidified his status as one of the brightest stars of the World Cup. With the ball pinging around the box on a series of headers, Rodriguez took a final ball forward off the head of teammate Abel Aguilar off his chest and slammed a left-footed volley from the top of the box off the crossbar, just past the reach of goalkeeper Fernando Musiera and into the back of the net.
And then the celebration dance.
And, of course, the reactions.
James Rodriguez goal had me like.. http://t.co/IgOekajnIz— Footy Humour (@FootyHumour) June 28, 2014
JAMES AGAIN: After a splendid build up by Colombia, it was Rodriguez again in the 50th minute when Juan Cuadrado headed a dangerous ball at the far post back in front of the goalmouth. Rodriguez pounced and slammed the ball into the back of the net for his fifth of the tournament. He was subbed off to a roaring crowd at the Maracanã in the 85th minute.
MOVING ON: Uruguay went with World Cup veteran Diego Forlan in Suarez’s vacated spot alongside Edinson Cavani. The 2010 tournament’s Golden Ball winner sat out Uruguay’s previous two games after starting in their 3-1 loss to Costa Rica in the tournament opener, which Suarez also missed. The 35-year-old Forlan was subbed off in the 53rd minute for Stuani after a mostly ineffective shift, possibly his last for the Sky Blue.
A SUAREZ PROBLEM: Uruguay showed it just isn't the same team without the Liverpool striker. They lost twice without Suarez and were outscored 5-1 in the tournament. Against Colombia, the Sky Blue had plenty of shots, 16, but only four were on target. Their main threat had to be Cavani, but he managed just one shot on goal.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Rodriguez, Colombia. Who else but the player simply known as James. Regardless of what happens with Los Cafeteros moving forward, he’ll exit the tournament an international star. And he could be a whole lot richer, with a rumored transfer from AS Monaco to Arsenal taking on new legs with manager Arsène Wenger reportedly in the stands for the game.