Hosts Colombia scraped into the quarter finals of the 2011 U-20 World Cup after a stoppage time penalty from James Rodriguez took them to a 3-2 victory over Costa Rica on Tuesday night.
After a tensely fought first half in which both sides hit the woodwork once but otherwise failed to threaten, the match came to life ten minutes into the second half when Michael Ortega – impressive throughout – slotted a lovely ball through the centre of the Costa Rican defence with the outside of his right foot that Luis Muriel latched onto and prodded past the onrushing Aaron Cruz to put Colombia ahead.
Costa Rican heads had dropped after conceding goals in their previous matches, but that was not the case here, and they fought back impressively with two goals in two minutes to swing the match in their favour. First, Juan Golobio’s through-ball took out the Colombian left-back Javier Calle and allowed the speedy John Ruiz to run in and finish, and then Mynor Escoe showed great determination to overcome a meaty challenge from Juan Cabezas before advancing and shooting into the corner of the net with Pedro Franco slow to close him down.
The home supporters in Bogota were in despair as their team toiled in search of a way back into the match, but after some tense moments Colombia restored parity on 79 minutes when Franco headed home Rodriguez’s inswinging cross with the Costa Rican goalkeeper Cruz all at sea.
Then, just as it seemed we would go to extra time came the most controversial moment of the match. The ball was rolled forward into the substitute Duvan Zapata who appeared to be held by Ariel Soto as he tried to make his way into the area. The English referee Mark Clattenberg stood with has hands behind to back to indicate no foul, but his linesman raised his flag and informed him that indiscretion had taken place. Clattenberg had little choice but to point the spot.
Replays showed that the initial contact was outside the box, but it did continue into the area and thus the officials appeared vindicated in their decision, although that didn’t prevent the Costa Ricans from angrily protesting the call. After a lengthy wait, Rodriguez stepped up, and with the entire stadium holding their breath, aimed a superb penalty right into the corner of the net to ensure Colombia’s passage to the last eight.
Colombia will now face Mexico in the quarter finals after they defeated Cameroon on penalties. The match will take place on Saturday (13th).