James Rodriguez after Greece rout: ‘Let’s hope Colombia can keep winning this way’

Colombia shrugged off Radamel Falcao's World Cup absence and opened up Group C play with a 3-0 win over Greece on Saturday in Belo Horizonte.

Teofilo Gutierrez, left, and Pablo Armero, centre with Victor Ibarbo celebrate after a Colombia goal on Saturday in their win over Greece at the 2014 World Cup. Leonhard Foeger / Reuters / June 14, 2014
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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 on Saturday.

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’, capped an impressive performance with a sweet left footed shot in time added on.

Colombia’s man-of-the match James Rodriguez was understandably pleased.

“I am really happy that Colombia won and that I scored. Let’s hope Colombia can keep winning in this way,” said the 22-year-old playmaker who moved to Monaco from Porto a year ago.

“Greece is a defensive team, they are very strong, but we were very consistent, we were patient and we were able to find a way through. Once you get the first goal it becomes much easier and it helped that our first goal came very quickly.”

“It’s easy to say who is favourites. It is true we are a strong team but the next two games are going to be really difficult.”

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

It took Colombia just five minutes to send their fans wild.

Said Colombia coach Jose Pekerman: “I’m very happy. This was the first match we have played in a long time and it was against a strong team. The result is really important for us to be able to stay in the tournament.”

“We have to learn to trust ourselves. Sometimes we didn’t react fast enough and they had opportunities.

“Colombia proved today that we have many positive assets. We can play, we can create good opportunities and we can take them.”

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.

If the Greeks needed any encouragement to rescue the situation the fans provided them with it wielding a banner which read ‘We won’t say Greeks play like heroes, we say heroes play like Greeks’.

However, apart from one vain call for a penalty by Samaras the Greeks were incapable of threatening the Colombian goal and it was the South Americans who deservedly doubled their lead through Gutierrez.

Rodriguez’s corner was a poor one but a superb deft flick on by Abel Aguilar came to Gutierrez who tapped home from close range -- his 13th goal in 31 appearances -- and provoked another superb dance celebration routine.

Colombia may have thought they were safe but the Greeks gave them a warning that all was not done as Vasilis Torosidis found the unmarked Theofanis Gekas yards out from the goal, but the 34-year-old’s header beat Ospina only to cannon back off the bar.

It was the Colombians who finished off the scoring as a flowing move ended with Monaco star Rodriguez side-footing the ball past Karnezis although the dance routine failed to materialise this time.

Said Greece coach Fernando Santos: “After a game like this you have to congratulate your opponent. Colombia were more competitive in the opening 10 minutes and we did not concentrate enough. We knew exactly what Colombia were going to do. I told the players what to expect and there was no surprise in their strategy but we still had problems. But then we had some control until the end of the first half and it was unfortunate we didn’t take our chances to draw level. Their keeper made a great save just before half-time and that would have had a big impact on both team’s morale had it gone in.”

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