Drama, joy and emotion – three essential ingredients of any FIFA World Cup – were in plentiful supply yesterday. It was a day on which heroes joined forces to lead their teams to glory, while others completed unlikely comebacks and one player in particular was unable to withstand the emotion of it all, leading to a rumour or two on social networking sites.
All in all, it was another excellent day for South America, with Colombia striding into the second round for the first time in 24 years, while Uruguay bounced back to revive their hopes of pulling off another Maracanazo and leave England’s chances of making further progress hanging by a thread.
Bringing the day to a close was the third goalless draw of the competition, played out by Greece and Japan.
Any footballer will tell you that there is only one thing better than winning a match, and that’s winning it with your friends.
Two old pals who did exactly that today are childhood buddies James Rodriguez and Juan Fernando Quintero.
The Envigado youth products scored the two goals that allowed Colombia to dispose of Côte d’Ivoire and advance to the Round of 16.
Two more old acquaintances to combine to great effect later in the day were Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
Born only 21 days apart in the same Uruguayan city of Salto, the two-man strike force made their name at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 and teamed up yet again to down England in Sao Paulo.
Côte d’Ivoire midfielder Serey Die struggled to contain his emotions when his country’s national anthem started to sound ahead of the Group C meeting with Colombia at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, the music prompting him to burst into tears.
Though an unusual sight in itself, the scene prompted some even more unlikely speculation online, as the rumour began to spread that the player’s tears were due to the death of his father just two hours before kick-off.
Speaking exclusively to FIFA.com after the match, Die put everyone in the picture: “The rumours are totally false.
“The only reason I cried was because I was very emotional about playing for my country.”
Just 28 days after undergoing knee surgery, Charrua talisman Luis Suarez crowned his unlikely return to action with a match-winning brace against England.
La Celeste’s 2-1 win triggered much jubilation in Uruguay, with supporters even going to the length of creating a photo of the striker dressed as Jose Artigas, one of the country’s most illustrious sons, who just happened to be born 250 years ago today.
Colombia completed a fine comeback of their own on Thursday, clinching a place in the last 16 of the competition for the first time since Italy 1990.
Twenty-four years on from the exploits of Rene Higuita, Carlos Valderrama and Freddy Rincon et al, the Colombians have finally found a new breed ready to emulate the heroes of yesteryear.
The day’s final game saw one more notable reappearance, as Greece’s iconic No10 Georgios Karagounis returned to world-finals action at the grand old age of 37, making a crucial contribution as The Pirate Ship held on for a point against Japan despite being a man down for the best part of an hour.