Determined not to make the same sorry start as against Japan in their first outing (0-3), New Zealand came out all guns blazing in the sweltering early summer heat in Lyon on Friday 20 June. The “All Whites” even led the scoring until Colombia woke from their slumbers in the last half hour to hit three goals and give themselves a decent chance of qualifying from Group A. The South Americans meet Japan in their last group game on Sunday to determine their fate, while New Zealand now have no hope of progressing to the next round.
After losing their openers, both sides knew they needed a win today at Gerland stadium in Lyon. But Francisco Maturana’s charges looked sluggish in the early going, leaving observers wondering out loud whether they had expended too much energy against hosts France two days earlier. The Kiwis on the other hand looked sharp and full of running right from the opening whistle.
On 27 minutes Kiwi midfielder Raf De Gregorio tried his luck from 25 yards out, only to completely miss his kick. Luckily for him though, the ball spun back into his stride, and at the second time of asking he hit a peach with the outside of his right foot to give Colombian keeper Oscar Cordoba no chance (0-1).
The South Americans were stunned into action. Suddenly their passes had more fizz, and they looked increasingly dangerous down the left flank. Just before the interval master playmaker Gonzalo Martinez burst through the New Zealand defence, cut back inside and struck a shot which Mike Utting only held onto at the second attempt.
The second half belonged to Colombia. They laid siege to the Kiwi penalty area, and Jorge Lopez finally put an end to the South American’s dry spell in front of goal. The Millionarios player saw his long range shot take a slight deflection over keeper Mike Utting’s outstretched hands (1-1, 58’).
That was Colombia’s first goal in an official competition since 12 May 2002, and as is so often the case, it opened the floodgates. Another stroke of good fortune came the South Americans’ way when Chris Killen was sent off for a second yellow card following a foul (68’). Mario Yepes then almost put his side in front when his header cannoned off the upright (73’). The Nantes defender did get on the scoresheet with a spectacular effort on 75 minutes though, flicking the ball up for himself with his left foot before swivelling to let fly again with his left peg into the far corner, beating Utting all ends up and injuring New Zealand defender Duncan Oughton in the process (2-1, 75’).
Heads then dropped in the New Zealand camp. Four Kiwi defenders stood and watched as Giovanni Hernandez - in fantastic form tonight - got a well deserved goal from long range (3-1, 85’). Mick Waitt’s men were now well beaten. Victor Aristizabal could even have made it five when he missed two golden opportunities in injury time.