Colombia thrash Greece in joyous World Cup return

Sat Jun 14, 2014 4:30pm EDT
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BELO HORIZONTE Brazil (Reuters) - Colombia celebrated their first World Cup appearance since 1998 by sweeping aside Greece 3-0 on Saturday with a free-flowing display that showed their abundance of attacking talent even without top striker Radamel Falcao.

The result at the Estadio Mineirao stadium confirmed the South Americans' pre-tournament status as Group C favorites, though Ivory Coast and Japan are likely to prove trickier rivals.

In another high-tempo match, pacy Colombia attacked from the start as if determined to prove they can cope without Falcao, whose ligament injury put a dampener on their buildup.

They were rewarded early on when marauding left back Pablo Armero scored with a deflected shot in the fifth minute, rocking the Greeks whose gameplan depends on defensive stability.

Striker Teofilo Gutierrez, whom Colombians expect to fill the hole left by Falcao, extended their lead when he stabbed home a 58th minute corner.

Midfielder James Rodriguez sealed the win, and his man-of-the-match performance, with a third goal in stoppage time.

"It's a good start," said Colombia's Argentine coach Jose Pekerman, whose last participation in a World Cup was when he led Argentina to Germany in 2006.

"We showed we're here to have a good World Cup. But nothing's won, it was the first game."

The match was by no means one-sided though. Forced to attack after conceding, Greece had plenty of chances, showing they will be no pushover for their other group rivals.   Continued...

Colombia's Teofilo Gutierrez (L) celebrates with teammates Pablo Armero and Victor Ibarbo (R) after scoring a goal during their 2014 World Cup Group C soccer match against Greece at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte June 14, 2014. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger