Colombia came from behind to beat the US 2-1 thanks to a late strike, in the penultimate friendly game of the year in London.
Colombia, as many would have expected, had enough talent to dominate the USA for the majority of the match, but it took them until one of the last plays of the game to scrape out the victory. However, Jose Pekerman’s team recorded another win to add to a very successful year and showed glimpses of its enormous potential.
The talking point of Colombia’s line-up was the duo Jeison Murillo and Pedro Camilo Franco at the center of the four-men defensive block. Murillo and Franco played together for the first time, as coach Jose Pekerman looked to revamp the team’s defense.
The midfield didn’t provide any surprises, with Abel Aguilar, Carlos Sanchez, James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado all usual suspects. In attack, Pekerman decided on two “Costeños”: Carlos Bacca and Teo Gutierrez.
James was named the youngest ever captain in the history of Colombian national team.
First half for US
The first 10 minutes brought fast-paced, open, end-to-end soccer. Both teams showed an inclination for blistering offense, displaying good transition from defense to attack.
After a ninth minute handball from Pablo Armero inside the box saw the US team led by Jurgen Klinsmann was awarded an early penalty. Armero appealed for a foul on debuting American striker Rubion Rubin, who appeared to have impeded him, but the Polish referee Szymon Marciniak waved off the protests. Big man Jozy Altidore converted the penalty to make it 1-0 for the US, though Colombian goalkeeper Camilo Vargas wasn’t far from saving the shot.
Taking the lead, the US sat a little further at the back, allowing Colombia space to pass the ball around in the midfield, but it took “Los Cafeteros” time to really come back into the game.
Twenty minutes in, Colombia earned a free kick after a handball from the veteran Jermaine Jones. Rodriguez’s shot from 20 meters out came whistling past the left post of the US goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s goal.
Moments later, a great one-touch play on the right between James, Cuadrado and Bacca led to latter’s deflected shot. Almost all of Colombia’s offensive plays passed through its main star, James Rodriguez.
What followed was a spell of dominance for Colombia, as Pekerman’s team began dictating possession and play. However, due to wastefulness in the final third, no clear-cut chances arrived.
Colombia’s best opportunity in the first half came in the 33rd minute. Cesar Sanchez intercepted the ball in the middle of the park, initiating a fast break. Drilled across from the right, unmarked Bacca went through for one-on-one with the US goalkeeper, but the shot went off the outside of the upright
Right before halftime, Colombian players called for a penalty for another handball from Jones. Although it appeared like the US defender stopped the ball with his arm, the whistle didn’t go off and the first half ended with 1-0 for coach Klinsmann’s men.
Second Half for Colombia
Colombia counted themselves lucky not to concede immediately after the break, when young Rubin put a headed shot just inches wide of goal. Armero was again to blame, arriving late to cover the defense.
James should have done better just two minutes later when he stalled a crucial pass at the end of a dangerous fast break with three Colombian attackers running at just two US defenders.
Colombia managed to find the back of the net in 60th minute through Carlos Bacca, who showed his characteristic clinical finish after a magnificent individual play from James Rodriguez.
After the goal, Colombia piled up the pressure with a couple of good shots from distance, but Brad Guzan made no mistakes, safely clutching the ball each time.
The US concentrated on defending and came out with a few counter-attacks, but failed to reach the danger zone until the 80th minute, when a great passing combination opened the US substitute Bobby Wood through on Colombian goal. Vargas was there to block the apathetic effort. It was the US best chance since the penalty.
Juan Cuadrado’s immediate response came close as his shot from outside the penalty box was held on to by Guzan, but the second goal was hanging in the air.
The winner came three minutes before the final whistle, when Atletico’s Nacional youngster Edwin Cardona, subbed in just moments earlier, crossed the ball from the right-hand side straight onto Teo Gutierrez’s head. The River Plate forward left the US goalkeeper no chance with a cool finish from close range.
The game was played at Craven Cottage, the London home of English Championship team Fulham. Colombian fans dominated the stands with a flood of yellow jerseys and cheerful chanting.