Heroic Colombia turn the tables on US, march ahead
AS NEWS TRICKLED IN THAT GHANA HAD TAKEN A 20 LEAD, THE COLOMBIANS STEPPED UP THE PACE
MUMBAI: Colombia put up a heroic display to turn the table on United States in their final group game. Colombia’s sensational 3-1 win meant, US, Ghana and Colombia all finished on six points each and the standings would be decided on goal difference. US had started the game on the top of the table but were relegated to third spot, though they should be enough to go through as one of the four third-best teams in groups. Ghana topped and Colombia were second.
For different reasons the two teams were under pressure - Colombia because they had to get a positive result to stay in contention for the round of 16.
On the other hand, after the debacle of the seniors, who failed to qualify for the World Cup, the United States boys needed to put up a strong display to apply balms on the broken hearts back home.
However, to the dismay of the US supporters, their young guns too floundered to leave a question mark on the health of the sport in the country.
In fact, the way the game began the signs were ominous for US when they conceded a soft goal within minutes of the kickoff. The US defence was caught napping on a throw-in from the right and Juan Vidal was left with a simple task of tapping the ball in off handshaking distance.
Colombia put up a much-improved display after surviving the scare against India. Their strategy of hard-running game and attacking every ball didn’t allow the US team to settle into any sort of rhythm.
Colombia forwards Deiber Caicedo and Vidal harried the central defenders by rushing on to them every time they had the ball. The Colombians cut off the supply-lines to dangerman Sargent, who had to repeatedly fall back to beef up his defence.
As news trickled in that Ghana had taken a 2-0 lead, the Colombians stepped up the pace. Soon, they were in full flow and cutting through the US defence with swift passing play.
Their efforts bore fruit in the 67th minute when they were awarded a free-kick on the left side of the box. It was a very cute angle but Juan Penaloza produced a beauty.
From there on, Colombia were putting on a show of South American football — there was a spectacular side volley from Juan Vidal and rising shot from Yadir Menezes that had the US goalkeeper stretching.
USA’s Sergino Dest (left) fights for ball with Leandro Campaz.