Colombians rout Greece in Cup return

23:01, Jun 14 2014
Teo Gutierrez
Teo Gutierrez celebrates Colombia's second goal in a 3-0 rout of Greece in Belo Horizonte.
James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez (bottom) celebrates Colombia's third goal against Greece.
Orestis Karnezis
Greece goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis watches as Colombia's first goal rolls across the line.
Colombians
Colombia players dance in unison after their first goal in Belo Horizonte.
Giorgos Samaras
Greece's Giorgos Samaras holds the ball as Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga hassles him.
Panagiotis Kone
Greece's Panagiotis Kone reacts after missing an open shot.
Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast controls the ball against Keisuke Honda of Japan during their Group C match.
Celebration
The Ivory Coast celebrate their second goal scored by Gervinho during the Group C match between the Ivory Coast and Japan.
Yaya Toure
Maya Yoshida of Japan tackles Yaya Toure of the Ivory Coast.
Japan fans
Supporters of Japan cheer during their 2014 World Cup Group C soccer match against Ivory Coast.
Japan goal
Keisuke Honda of Japan (2nd L) celebrates scoring the team's first goal with teammates during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C match between the Ivory Coast and Japan
Slide
Yuto Nagatomo of Japan tackles Gervinho of the Ivory Coast during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group C match between the Ivory Coast and Japan
Teo Gutierrez
Teo Gutierrez high-fives team-mates after Juan Quintero made it 2-0 in the 70th minute against Ivory Coast.
Serge Aurier
Ivory Coast's Serge Aurier runs towards a big ball during the Group C match between Colombia and Ivory Coast.
Wilfried Bony
Colombia's Cristian Zapata watches as Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony jumps.
Colombia fans
Colombia fans celebrate Juan Quintero's goal during the Group C match between Colombia and Ivory Coast.
Vanishing spray
Referee Howard Webb of England sprays vanishing spray on the pitch during the Group C match between Colombia and Ivory Coast.
Juan Quintero
Colombia's Juan Quintero scores his team's second goal past Ivory Coast's goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.
Japan v Greece
Yoshito Okubo of Japan is challenged by Sokratis Papastathopoulos of Greece
Japan v Greece
Eiji Kawashima of Japan punches clear during the 2Group C match between Japan and Greece.
Japan v Greece
Greece's Giorgios Samaras commits a foul against Japan's Atsuto Uchida.
Japan v Greece
Japan's Yoshito Okubo reacts after missing a chance to score a goal during their Group C match against Greece.
Japan v Greece
Fans arrive before the Group C match between Japan and Greece.
Japan v Greece
Greece's Vasilis Torosidis heads the ball against Japan.
Colombia v Japan
Japan's Yoshito Okubo tries to score past Colombia's Carlos Valdes.
Colombia v Japan
Colombia's James Rodriguez scores their fourth goal against Japan.
Colombia v Japan
Japan's Keisuke Honda reacts after Colombia scored their fourth goal.
Colombia v Japan
Colombia's Santiago Arias (R) fights for the ball with Japan's Shinji Kagawa
Colombia v Japan
Yoshito Okubo of Japan and Eder Alvarez Balanta of Colombia.
Colombia v Japan
Colombia's goalkeeper David Ospina stops an attempt at goal as Japan's Yoshito Okubo jumps against Pablo Armero.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Greece's Giorgios Samaras goes down in the challenge of Ivory Coast's Giovanni Sio to win a penalty.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Greece's Giorgios Samaras consoles Ivory Coast's Boubacar Barry, after he scored a penalty past Barry.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Greece celebrate after defeating the Ivory Coast 2-1.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Serge Aurier of the Ivory Coast challenges Giorgos Samaras of Greece.
Greece v Ivory Coast
A general view of action as Giorgos Karagounis of Greece takes a free kick during the Group C match against the Ivory Coast.
Greece v Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast's Wilfried Bony scores against Greece.

Colombia swept aside Greece 3-0 on Saturday (local time) to celebrate their first World Cup appearance since 1998 in a free-flowing display that showed their abundance of attacking talent even without top striker Radamel Falcao.

In another high-tempo match, the South Americans attacked from the off and were rewarded when left back Pablo Amero scored a fifth minute deflected shot, rocking the Greeks whose game plan depends on defensive stability.

Striker Teofilo Gutierrez, whom Colombians expect to fill the hole left by the injured Falcao, extended the lead when he stabbed home a 58th minute corner before midfield James Rodriguez sealed the win with a third goal in stoppage time.

The Group C opener in Belo Horizonte's Estadio Mineirao confirmed that pacy Colombia are a force to be reckoned with despite Falcao's injury, which overshadowed their buildup.

"We're really happy. 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 themselves.

Vassilis Torosidis headed just past the post, Panagiotis Kone saw a shot well saved and Giorgos Samaras struck just wide.

In their best opportunity, veteran striker Fanis Gekas hit the bar with a header on 63 minutes when it looked easier to score, effectively scuppering any chances of a comeback.

The result pumped up an already pulsating atmosphere among the majority Colombian crowd.

The yellow-clad fans were thrilled at seeing their team back at football's top table after being shut out since their great sides of 1990s featuring flamboyant characters like goalkeeper Rene Higuita and blond-locked Carlos Valderrama.

The joy was in evidence after Colombia's first goal, when the players danced together in front of their bench in probably the most colourful celebration so far of the Brazil World Cup.

Defeat continued Greece's dismal record of never keeping a clean sheet at a World Cup finals. They have never gone beyond the group stage either, so will be hoping Group C rivals Ivory Coast and Japan - who meet later on Saturday - are easier foes.

Armero's early goal came after sustained pressure down the right wing, with a lucky deflection squeezing past keeper Orestis Karnezis. Three Colombian players looked offside but were deemed not interfering in play.

Gutierrez, with a heavy weight of expectations on his shoulders given Falcao's absence, scored an easy goal from close range after a corner had been flicked on.

Then Rodriguez, who had looked lively throughout, hit a low shot in stoppage time to send the Colombian fans delirious.

"It's a dream come true. I really wanted a goal. We hope to be able to go far," said Rodriguez, named man of the match.

Forward Kostas Mitroglou, lacking match fitness after a miserable time in the Premier League with now relegated Fulham, came off the bench in the second half but was unable to provide Greece's missing spark.

"We had our chances but just could not score. We should have done better in the finishing," said goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis.

"I don't think we were worth a 3-0 defeat. But unfortunately that's football. There are three games, we only lost one. It's a big success to be here, but we have to win too."

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Reuters