Teenage sensation Juan Camilo “El Cucho” Hernandez scored twice on his international debut as Colombia’s national football team overcame Costa Rica 3-1 in New Jersey on Tuesday.
Cucho scored with his first ever touch as a Colombian international in the 72nd minute and amazingly registered a second on the stroke of full-time to add to a fine individual first-half effort from Carlos Bacca as Arturo Reyes’ side ran out comfortable winners at the Red Bull Arena.
Colombia’s Caretaker coach Reyes fielded a very attack-minded starting XI, opting to pair playmakers James Rodriguez and Juan Fernando Quintero in the midfield as well as two strikers in Radamel Falcao and Carlos Bacca up front.
“Los Cafeteros” started the game on the front foot and could have taken the lead in the 7th minute when Falcao connected with a James free-kick but the Monaco striker’s header was saved by Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
Against the run of play, Costa Rica went close in the 17th minute when Bryan Oviedo cut in from the left wing but his powerful shot curled just past David Ospina’s post.
Despite dominating the possession in the opening stages, Colombia failed to create any clear-cut chances until the 25th minute when right-back Santiago Arias stole in at the back post following a delightful Quintero pass.
The Atletico Madrid man was however foiled by his Real Madrid rival Navas in the Costa Rica goal.
The game sprung into life in the 29th minute when Bacca cut in from the right and glided past two Costa Rican defenders to power a shot past the hapless Navas to give the Colombians the lead.
The Costa Ricans to their credit responded in positive fashion and drew level just before half-time when Davinson Sanchez was caught flat-footed in the box and was out maneuvered by Vancouver Whitecaps’ defender Kendall Waston, who powered a header into the top corner of David Ospina’s net.
Tempers frayed a minute later following a collision between Colombia’s Arias and Costa Rica’s Oviedo with both players shown yellow cards as the sides went in all-square at half time.
Colombia began the second half brightly and James tested Navas in the Costa Rica goal in the 50th minute after being put through by a Matues Uribe interception but the Real Madrid shot stopper was equal to the task.
As Colombia piled on the pressure in search of a second goal, Navas was again the hero in the 54th minute when he saved a Quintero drive from outside the box after he was teed up by Uribe.
Sanchez almost redeemed his earlier error four minutes later but he couldn’t stretch enough to direct a teasing James cross into the net.
The game lost a bit of flow in the middle of the second half with both managers ringing the changes as Juan Cuadrado, Edwin Cardona and debutant Cucho Hernandez entered the fray for Colombia.
Cucho enjoyed a fairytale start to his international career as he got on the end of a parried Cuadrado shot in the 72nd minute to score with his first touch in a Colombian jersey, giving his side a 2-1 lead.
While Costa Rica battled bravely to the end, they failed to trouble Colombia in the final third and Cucho put the icing on the cake in the 92nd minute, capping an extraordinary debut as he finished after being set up by fellow substitute Cuadrado.
The win against Costa Rica caps an impressive series of performances by Colombia in recent friendles and on an incredible night in New Jersey, a new star could be born in Watford-owned Cucho Hernandez.
While Colombia displayed incredible attacking prowess against the USA last Thursday and again tonight, defensive lapses and the concession of three soft goals against mediocre opposition will be of concern.
This run of friendlies however has given temporary boss Reyes the opportunity to experiment, particularly in midfield and attack as we wait to for the appointment of a long term successor to the recently-departed coach Jose Pekerman.