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Colombia marked their long-awaited return to the FIFA World Cup™ with a 3-0 win over Greece at a packed Estadio Minerao.
Pablo Armero, Teofilo Gutierrez and James Rodriguez scored the all-important goals in Belo Horizonte as Los Cafateros, back on the world stage for the first time since 1998, seized the initiative in Group C.
Greece had conceded only four times during qualifying for Brazil 2014, but it took just five minutes for their famously formidable rearguard to be breached, with Armero the man responsible. A slick, well-worked move down the right culminated in the Colombia No7 charging on to a clever dummy by Rodriguez and wrong-footing Orestis Karnezis with a deflected right-foot shot.
The goal was just reward for a nerveless, positive start to the match by Jose Pekerman's side, and it was greeted by a deafening roar from the Cafateros fans dominating the capacity crowd. Those same boisterous supporters were very nearly silenced just a couple of minutes later, though, when Panagiotis Kone sliced narrowly wide following good play on the left by the marauding Georgios Samaras.
The Greece midfielder's finishing continued to prove wayward as the half wore on, but with Samaras's pace stretching the Colombians, an equaliser began to seem increasingly likely. Then, just as Kone found his shooting boots, curling superbly towards the top corner, David Ospina pulled off a save every bit as impressive, leaping high to his left to claw the ball away.
At the other end, Colombia continued to carry a threat, and the first noteworthy effort of the second half came from the left boot of Rodriguez, with Karnezis parrying to safety. The Greece keeper was helpless, however, to prevent the South Americans doubling their advantage on 58 minutes, when Abel Aguilar flicked on a corner for Teofilo Gutierrez to slide home from close range.
It was a crushing blow to Greek morale, and they must have sensed that it was not to be their day when Theofanis Gekas chalked up one of the misses of the tournament thus far, heading against the crossbar when it appeared easier to score. Sure enough, their agony was compounded in injury time when the lively Rodriguez prodded low into the bottom corner from 16 yards to spark yet more Colombian ecstasy.
Greece must now look to make up lost ground in their next match against Japan, who face Côte d'Ivoire later this evening in Recife.