Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Robin van Persie and others. The 2014 World Cup had several stars, but the top scorer was shockingly James Rodriguez of Colombia. His performance at the championship earned him a transfer to Real Madrid.
Does the name James read? Like James Bond? Eager fans and media were eager to find out the pronunciation of world football’s rising star during the 2014 World Cup. “No, I’m a ‘chamés’,” the Colombian refused to be associated with the famous agent.
But no one expected the 22-year-old Colombian to become the World Cup’s top scorer with six goals. Not when there were other superstars like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Junior, Robin van Persie, Thomas Müller and others.
The beauty of the World Cup is that it produces new world stars in a matter of weeks. Rodriguez transferred from Banfield to Porto in 2010. There he had three productive years before AS Monaco arrived. The princely club was freshly promoted, backed by Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev and spent big money on two Colombians.
The main signing was Radamel Falcao, the twenty-seven-year-old Atlético Madrid striker who was one of the deadliest strikers and was at the peak of his powers.
Rodriguez was 21 years old and the €45 million spent was a show of faith in his potential. That season he scored nine goals and added 13 assists to lead his club to second place. However, it wasn’t until the World Cup in Brazil that he came to the attention of the wider footballing public.
The fateful World Cup
Colombia, however, lost their main star Radamel Falcao before the tournament, having already been injured in Monaco. So another rising star had to replace him.
Colombia were in a group that had no favourites. Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan were solid teams, but they were not among the tournament favourites.
The Colombians opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over Greece, with Rodriguez scoring the third goal in the 93rd minute. He followed it up with a goal in the 64th minute in the match against Ivory Coast, in which the Colombians won 2: 1 and secured qualification.
In the final game against Japan, he was rested, came on in the second half and confirmed that he was having the tournament of his life with two assists and one goal.
The match ended 4-1 and was remembered for Rodriguez’s stunning goal. James went right, then left in the penalty area, left Maya Yoshida on the ground and flicked over the goalkeeper. Rodriguez became the first player to score in all group games since Ronaldo and Rivaldo scored in 2002.
Colombia faced a tough match against Uruguay in the eighth-finals in Rio de Janeiro. Rodriguez scored two goals to lead his country to its first ever quarter-final. But in what way.
To score such a fantastic goal is unique in itself, but to do it in a World Cup knockout? A centred ball into the penalty area was cleared by the Uruguayan defence, it went wide to Abel Aguilar who headed it back to Rodriguez with his back to goal.
Rodriguez quickly looked behind him, worked the ball on his chest, turned and sent the ball into the left post from a volley. It still bounced off the crossbar, adding to the beauty of the goal.
Rodriguez’s goal later won the FIFA Puskas Award for the most beautiful goal of the year. Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez described it as “one of the best goals in the history of MS”.
Colombia had already stumbled in the quarter-finals, falling to hosts Brazil 1-2. James at least made his mark again with a goal in the 80th minute to become the tournament’s top scorer with six goals.
Source: FIFA, Youtube
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