Colombia 3 - Greece 0
[Armero (5'), Gutierrez (58'), Rodriguez (93')]
FINAL: Los Cafeteros looked extremely imposing offensively, pressuring Greek's defenders from the midfield on up. The three goals represents the most Colombia has scored in a World Cup game since 1962. Colombia looks like the class of Group C, especially after adding a third goal for emphasis. Greece, on the other hand, couldn't finish on its few chances and didn't have the legs to run with Colombia in front of a decidedly partisan crowd.
93' -- GOAL!! Colombia 3-0!!! James Rodriguez buries a left-footed shot from the top of the box and that'll do it. Could come in handy for goal differential.
90' -- Three minutes added for extra time. Credit to the refs for keeping this game under control aside from a couple justified yellows. Colombia continues to press up the field and hold possession in the attacking third. Greece is all but done.
85' -- Samaras with a low driving shot towards the left post misses just wide. Greece has had four or five significant chances, but they just can't keep it on frame. It could easily be 2-2.
82' -- Greece works it into the box hoping to draw a foul but nothing there. They look outclassed by Colombia and look especially gassed with about 10 minutes left.
76' -- Porto's Jackson Martinez, a prolific goal scorer, comes on for Teo Gutierrez, who knocked in the second goal. Martinez is excellent, however there's no need for Colombia to score again save for goal differential. Close this game out, maintain possession and avoid injuries.
1:33 p.m. ET: Again, no explanation for this miss from Gekas. It's just awful finishing.
73' -- Pablo Armero (your first goal scorer) comes out as Arias comes in to bolster the defense.
69' -- The Greeks are still pressing up in dire need of a goal, but their touch just isn't there. Couple that with Colombia's two-goal lead and Los Cafeteros look confident. They might score another off a counter-attack, but there's no reason not to maintain possession for the majority of the second.
1:23 p.m ET: Colombia's second goal -- an easy flick-in off the deflection for Teo.
62' -- Greece's Gekas misses a wide-open header off the woodwork. Incredible touch to save the ball from going out of bounds, but Greece absolutely had to have that. An open goal yields nothing.
58' -- GOAL!!! COLOMBIA LEADS 2-0!Teo Gutierrez knocks in a corner kick that deflected in front of the mouth of the goal. All four of Greece's goal in qualifying came while defending set pieces, and the man marking on that piece cost them immensely.
55' -- Another poor challenge from Salpingidis charging back from his position draws a yellow. Again, Colombia can't capitalize despite a nice header across the goal face.
52' -- Nasty, nasty challenge from Sokratis on Ibarbo draws a yellow. Just outside the box and Colombia shoots its set piece into the wall. Really reckless stuff from the Greek defense. It might have earned an ejection in some referees' eyes.
48' -- WE'RE OFF! Samaras again with some beautiful foot work along the left side. He went down, but waves his finger acknowledging that there wasn't enough contact to warrant a penalty. James Rodriguez rips a shot at Karnezis in response but he deflects it before a clearance.
Halftime: Colombia 1, Greece 0
This sprawling save kept Colombia ahead.
Los Cafeteros' early goal changed the entire dynamic of the first half. It seemed to ease the pressure on the Colombians while in turn, forcing the Greeks to attack. Twice they nearly tied it up, but a late-half save from Ospina maintained Colombia's edge. It must be said that the environment at Belo Horizonte is incredible. Only Brazil's opening match could rival the intensity and passion on display from the Colombian supporters.
Also, she's happy:
45' -- Ospina with an unbelievable diving save to keep the clean sheet. Kone ripped one towards the upper right 90 and Ospina launched himself up, deflecting the shot for a corner, which yielded little.
42' -- There's nothing to suggest Greece can't score against the Colombians. Torosidis and Kone have made some fantastic runs inside the box and Colombia has only looked to score off quick counter attacks. Give it up for the Greeks, who've been a lot more entertaining than advertised. By that same token, Colombia has now missed two close volleys that could've added a bit more separation.
37' -- James Rodriguez mis-hits a cross that could've been a beautiful goal. Greek defense catches a late first-half break.
33' -- The Colombians seem to have taken their foot off the pedal in the last 10 minutes as Greece has taken the advantage in terms of possession, 60-40. Greece continues to attack the Colombians along the flanks instead of the through the middle, particularly along the left side.
28' -- NEARLY a goal off a dangerous set piece from the Greeks. Torosidis connected on a header but couldn't put it on frame. He caught Colombia's keeper out of position.
25' -- Ibarbo with a huge run on the left flank barely stopped by Kostas Manolas. Greece had pressed so far up (surprisingly) that it left the defense vulnerable for a change. That's a direct result of the early goal. Keep an eye on Georgios Samaras, Greece's left striker. He's made a few good runs, but just hasn't been able to maintain possession.
22' -- Greece is actually putting together some dangerous offensive sequences in the attacking third, but Colombia realizes it can play its opponents' game, packing it on defense. However, a few shoddy clearances have kept plays alive for the Greeks.
17' -- A beautiful give-and-go involving Victor Ibarbo almost earned a second goal, and Los Cafeteros followed it up with another rocket from just outside the box. Karnezis handles it, but you get the sense that more is coming.
15' -- Greece let up just four goals during qualifying, and now have to press up instead of just controlling the ball in the back. The Colombians haven't relented and are pushing for a second.
12:10 p.m. ET: That dance I mentioned after Armero's goal?? Here it is --
7' -- Greece nearly responds with a quick counter, but the shot veers wide. Colombia's early goal was its quickest ever goal in a World Cup.
5' -- Colombia GOAL!! Armero with an early goal off a deflection and the Colombians break out an awesome dance with the reserves. The ball was deflected, leaving Karnezis zero chance to stop it as it trickled in.
3' -- As expected, the Greeks are packing it in and Colombia has pressed high up on the pitch. Los Cafeteros have had a few early chances, which should be the norm today.
1' -- We're off. And it's very, very yellow at Belo Horizante.
12 noon ET: Anthems have been sung. Team photos have been taken. Game on.
11:55 a.m. ET: Mineirao is reportedly a giant sea of yellow. If you see this guy, run.
11:40 a.m. ET: Back in the World Cup for the first time since 1998, the Colombian side claim to be a more talented group than the famed 1994 outfit -- which was also promptly bounced from the group stages. A win over Greece could be the start of a significant tournament run, especially in such a moderate group. Pray, pray that Greece doesn't score first. If they do, expect a dull, defensive game. However if Colombia can notch the first goal, it will force Kostas Mitroglou and company to stretch the field and welcome a few more risks.
Starters for Colombia:
(4-4-2) Ospina, Zapata, Yepes, Sanchez, Armero, Aguilar, Gutierrez, Rodriguez, Cuadrado, Ibarbo, Zuniga
(4-4-2) Karnezis, Maniatis, Papastathopoulos, Manolas, Samaras, Kone, Salpingidis, Torosidis, Gekas, Cholevas, Katsouranis
Colombia's first World Cup match since 1998 offers a distinct clash of styles between the Group C foes. Greece is known for its defensive tact, content to sit back and clog any pressure, while the Colombians, who scored 27 goals in qualifying, prefer to attack.
Even without the services of Radamel Falcao (out after tearing his ACL early this year), Colombia is still extremely potent. Falcao's Monaco teammate midfielder James Rodriguez is the primary facilitator while Porto's Jackson Martinez could prove to be a huge impact player in the attacking third.
Greece made it to the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 on the strength of its defense -- the same defense which conceded four (!!) goals in 10 qualifying matches. Look for keeper Orestis Karnezis to continue his stellar play.
Colombia, a trendy dark horse candidate, is the favorite to emerge as the winner of the group. As such, a two-goal win over Greece shouldn't be too much to ask.