Colombia’s James Rodriguez has five goals from four games in Brazil, putting him ahead of Argentina’s Lionel Messi and the host’s Neymar.
The 22-year-old attacking midfielder scored both goals as Colombia beat Uruguay 2-0 in Rio de Janeiro yesterday to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time. Rodriguez now has one more than four-time World Player of the Year Messi, Barcelona’s Neymar and Germany’s Thomas Mueller, who won the prize in South Africa.
William Hill Plc (WMH) cut its odds on Rodriguez finishing the tournament as top scorer to 7-2, making him the second favorite after Messi at 3-1. A successful $1 bet on the Colombian would yield a $3.50 profit. He had started as a 100-1 chance with the U.K. bookmaker.
“He has everything needed to be a great player on the international stage,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman told reporters.
Rodriguez, who had nine goals for Monaco in France’s Ligue 1 last season, controlled a high ball, turned and hit a 25-meter (30-yard) dipping volley in off the crossbar to make it 1-0 after 28 minutes at the Maracana stadium. He got his second from close range in the second half after Juan Cuadrado headed down a cross into the goalmouth.
Rodriguez received a standing ovation from tens of thousands of Colombians in the 73,804 crowd when he was substituted five minutes before the end. Colombia advances to play record five-time champion Brazil in Fortaleza on July 4. Earlier yesterday, Brazil needed a penalty shootout to eliminate Chile in Belo Horizonte.
“It’s historic, a dream come true,” Rodriguez said after being named man of the match. “I always wanted to score in the Maracana and now I have.”
Rodriguez is the first player to score in his opening four games of a World Cup since 2002.
Rodriguez is leading a squad that “is changing the history of Colombian soccer,” back-up defender Carlos Valdes said. Colombia hasn’t played in the World Cup since 1998, when it was eliminated in the opening group phase for a third consecutive time.
With star striker Radamel Falcao sitting out the World Cup after failing to recover from a knee injury, Rodriguez has become one of the leaders of Colombia even though he’s one of the youngest on the squad, Pekerman said. He is 16 years younger that team captain Mario Yepes, 38.
“The most surprising thing about him is that he has taken on a responsibility that other players take years to come to grips with,” Pekerman said. “He has grown up fast.”
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