Lauded for their attacking soccer and respected for the way it had ripped through its group at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Colombia found that attacking soccer simply isn’t enough to get the job done in the business end of the competition, as Brazil eliminated Colombia, 2-1, in Friday’s quarterfinal. David Luiz scored what turned out to be the match-winning goal on a free kick late in the second half.
Colombia attacked furiously at that point, trailing 2-0, and were rewarded once after drawing a penalty that James Rodriguez converted for his sixth goal in six matches at this World Cup. But Colombia’s inability to keep Brazil off the board on restarts (once on a corner, once on the Luiz free kick) proved to be its undoing. Such moments require the ultimate in concentration at this, the highest level of international soccer, and two letdowns by Colombia were enough to send them home after their deepest-ever advancement yet in a World Cup.
It’s a shame in one sense, as this edition of the Colombian National Team was one very pleasing to watch from an attacking standpoint — a team that won all three of its group matches by a combined score of 9-2, then beat Uruguay in the Round of 16, 2-0. But that plus-9 goal differential was no good at all to the Colombians today, as wave after wave of attack at the Brazilian goal in the final moments left them still yearning for an equalizer as the final whistle blew.
Teams like Colombia are the ones you want to see make deep runs in the World Cup. And for Colombia specifically, these three weeks have renewed the world’s respect for its team and to some extent, the nation itself, after years and years of darkness following the events surrounding Colombia’s exit from the 1994 World Cup in the United States. Had Friday’s match been played anywhere but Brazil, perhaps the result would have been different. But Brazil hasn’t lost a competitive game in its home country for some four decades, and it requires 90-plus minutes of focus, precision and guile to beat them as the visitor.
Colombia didn’t quite measure up to that standard and now the run is over. Brazil moves on to play in Tuesday’s semifinal against Germany, 1-0 winners over France earlier in the day. Brazil-Germany is a matchup any soccer fan in the world will quite rightly look forward to. Meanwhile, Colombia leaves having entertained the world and having earned the dignity and respect it had long sought on the international stage. It also leaves, however, knowing there is another step Colombia must take if it is going to be a true title contender looking ahead to the 2018 World Cup.