Dominant Colombia ease past Greece


Colombia made an impressive start to their Group C campaign as an early Pablo Armero strike set them on the way to a comfortable win over Greece.

The Napoli defender rolled in Juan Cuadrado’s fifth-minute cut-back.

Teofilo Gutierrez, leading Colombia’s attack in the absence of the injured Radamel Falcao, then touched in from a James Rodriguez corner after the break.

Theofanis Gekas headed Greece’s best chance against the bar, before Rodriguez steered in a late third.

It was a very solid showing from Colombia, who are looking to progress beyond the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time after finishing runners-up to Argentina in South American qualifying.

But the pressure is on attacking talents such as Gutierrez and Rodriguez to produce goals after Monaco forward Falcao, their nine-goal top scorer in the qualification campaign, was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury.

He did his bit to help his compatriots by offering hugs and moral support to his team-mates in the tunnel before the match.

And cheered on by the majority of the crowd at Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Jose Pekerman’s side responded with a goal inside the first five minutes.

The creative Cuadrado rolled the ball across the penalty area from the right, and Armero – who spent the second half of last season on loan at West Ham – scored only his second goal in 54 international appearances with a shot that trundled in off Greece centre-back Kostas Manolas.

It was a far from spectacular goal – and television replays showed three Colombia players were standing in offside positions – but the left-back and his team-mates celebrated with an eye-catching dance in front of their bench.

The craft of £37.6m Monaco midfielder Rodriguez and pace of Cagliari forward Victor Ibarbo threatened repeatedly to cause further damage to the Greece backline, although they had to be patient before the rewards came.

And Pekerman’s defence had to survive some difficult moments themselves, with Panagiotis Kone unable to take either of two chances that came his way.

Kone should have equalised within seconds of Armero’s opener, but scuffed wide from 15 yards after former Celtic striker Georgios Samaras had cut the ball back to him from the left.

The Bologna midfielder went close again just before half-time when his 20-yard steered shot was pushed away athletically by keeper David Ospina after Gekas’s charge into the penalty area was held up and Samaras worked the ball loose.

But it was a frustrating afternoon for Greece, who lacked enough adventure to find a way back into the match.

After the impressive Rodriguez had ended a run with a shot from outside the area that keeper Orestis Karnezis beat away, he then delivered the corner that led to Colombia’s second goal, with Abel Aguilar flicking on at the near post for an unattended Gutierrez to touch in from inside the six-yard box.

Gekas, preferred to Fulham striker Kostas Mitroglou in attack, capped a day to forget when he headed Vasilis Torosidis’s nod-back against the bar from six yards.

Colombia sealed victory with a stylish late goal, as exciting Fiorentina midfielder Cuadrado burst to the edge of the penalty area before setting up Rodriguez to guide a shot into the corner of the net.

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman:

“The crucial thing was that everyone did the job they were tasked with and that allowed us to play calmly. This result is very important for us and sets us up well for the rest of the group stage.

“We haven’t won anything yet, though I am very happy with this performance.

“We can prove how great Colombian football really is, but this was only the first game.”

Greece coach Fernando Santos:

“They caused us a lot of problems from the opening minutes. We did get back into the game, though, and the end result was a little bit unfair.

“The score doesn’t show it, but I think we played well.

“But these games are turned on the details, and they didn’t work for us today. We’re still proud to be here, and we’ll continue to play hard.”