Colombia’s national soccer team on Friday staged a remarkable recovery to beat France in Paris as preparations for this summer’s World Cup in Russia continued.
Goals from Luis Muriel, Radamel Falcao and a late Juan Fernando Quitero rescued “Los Cafeteros” after they had fallen behind following an early French onslaught.
First half goals from Olivier Giroud and Thomas Lemar powered the home side into an early lead in front of a boisterous home crowd but a spirited performance from the South Americans saw them overturn the deficit to secure a 3-2 win.
Despite injury concerns in the lead up to the game, Colombia’ playmaker James Rodriguez and record goal scorer Radamel Falcao made the starting XI as coach Jose Pekerman opted for the inexperienced paring of Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez and Barcelona’s Yerry Mina at the heart of the defense.
Colombia immediately struggled to get a foothold in the game at the Stade de France as the home side dominated the early exchanges with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann causing problems for the visitors.
“Les Blues” took the lead in the 11th minute when Colombian keeper David Ospina fumbled a Lucas Digna cross to allow Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud to pounce and put his side ahead, the striker becoming the fifth-highest goalscorer in France’s history.
The concession of the early goal rattled the Colombians and France became rampant, doubling the lead in the 26th minute after a devastating break involving Greizmann and Mbappe that saw Thomas Lemar finish to the net.
Colombia however responded two minutes later when a Luis Muriel cross somehow found its way past a bewildered Hugo Lloris in the French goal to give Pekerman’s side a lifeline.
The goal lifted the visitors and saw them claw their way back into the game but the defense still looked vulnerable as the home side attacked with Ospina denying Greizmann in the 39th minute at point blank range after he was put through by Mbappe.
Colombia’s Rodriguez went close on the stroke of half time when he sent a blistering free kick over Lloris’ crossbar as both sides headed in to catch their breath after a pulsating opening half.
Colombia carried the same momentum into the second half and immediately pressed for an equalizer, with Muriel wasting a decent chance in the 49th minute.
A more aggressive approach from the visitors enabled them to take the game to France and the reward came in the 62nd minute when midfielder Mateus Uribe stripped the French of possession with the ball eventually finding its way to James down the right wing.
The Bayern Munich star squared for the onrushing Falcao who made no mistake as he slotted past Lloris to register his 71st goal for his country.
With both sides making several changes during which Colombia introduced Jefferson Lerma, Jose Izquierdo, Duvan Zapata and Juan Fernando Quintero, the game inevitably lost some of its earlier flow.
While France continued to look dangerous on the counter, the decisive breakthrough came in the 85th minute when Umtiti clumsily brought down Lerma in the box to concede a penalty.
Substitute Quintero stepped up to take the spot-kick and duly obliged as he converted to secure what in the first half seemed like an unlikely victory for the Colombians.
Colombia’s veteran coach Pekerman will be pleased with the outing in Paris, particularly with the spirit shown by his side to find a way back into the game after falling two behind.
Colombia will now travel to London for another friendly against Australia at Craven Cottage with the Argentine likely to shuffle his pack again to give game time to the rest of the squad.
The South Americans will face group stage games against Japan, Senegal and Poland in this summer’s World Cup after being drawn in Group H.
32 teams will take part in 48 matches in the group stage to determine who qualifies for the second round of the tournament with the top two teams advancing from each group.