Nine of the best as Colombia crush the hosts
Colombia shattered Finland’s dreams and qualified for the quarter-finals in spectacular fashion with a 9-1 demolishing of the hosts in Helsinki on Tuesday. With Mexico drawing 3-3 in the other Group A game against China, Eduardo Lara’s team qualified in first place and will now take on Costa Rica at the same Töölö stadium on Saturday. Carlos Hidalgo, who hit four and now joins Freddy Adu as the tournament’s top scorer, and Gustavo Adrian Ramos both hit hat-tricks in the romp.
With Colombia needing just a draw and Finland an outright win, the match got off to a blistering start with both teams attacking at will. Under a setting sun and with spectators finding positions on a hilltop over looking the packed Töölö stadium, both young teams were eager to entertain.
The Rascals had an early chance with Jarkko Hurme heading over a corner. But it was the South Americans who found a cutting edge. Rising at the back post, tall defender Juan Carlos Morales looped a header that hit the underside of the bar before bouncing to safety. Within minutes though they were ahead through a fine effort from Carlos Hidalgo. The number 15 clipped a 20-yard free kick beyond the reach of goalkeeper Aapo Kiljunen and into the top corner to quiet the home fans and send a large contingent from Colombia wild (1-0, ‘16).
Finland came immediately back. Eetu Muinonen controlled a difficult right-wing centre inside the box before crashing it across goal. The home side went 2-0 down moments later. Gustavo Adrian Ramos was sent racing clear on goal and was brought down by Kiljunen. Hidalgo stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way for his second of the game (2-0, ‘32).
Three minutes later and it was 3-0. An exquisite chip from the left-side of the box from Jose Otalvaro struck the underside of the bar and then the post before bouncing down where Ramos lay in waiting to nod past the despairing Finnish keeper (3-0, ‘36).
Top striker Tomi Petrescu breathed some life into the misbehaving Rascals just before half-time when he rediscovered his predatory instinct to latch onto a miss-hit shot from Jarno Parikka and side foot home from close in (3-1, ‘41).
Knowing they had to win to qualify, Finland threw everything forward after the break. But they left their defence exposed and Colombia capitalised in sensational fashion. Hidalgo notched the first hat-trick of the night when he found himself alone in the box before firing home (4-1, ‘50).
terrible mistake in his own area by Sami Sanevuori handed Hidalgo his fourth as he whacked the Finnish present past the stranded Kiljunen (5-1, ‘61)
Worse and worse
Two minutes later and, incredibly, it was 6-1. The Finnish defence, now a shambles, failed to clear their lines and captain Fredy Guarin got in on the act to steer the ball in (6-1, ‘63).
Five minutes later things just got worse. Another scramble and Ramos had his second with Colombia players queuing up to poke in after another goalmouth scramble (7-1,’68). With the Finnish defence now nowhere to be seen, Ramos completed his hat-trick in similar fashion (8-1, ‘71).
And it was left to number 9, substitute Juan Gilberto Nunez, to complete the scoring with the ninth, running on to a through ball before rounding the keeper and slotting home from a tight angle (9-1, ‘74).
It could and should have been ten but, despite the calls from the unforgiving South American fans, double figures did not arrive.
“In such hard times for our country the young kids have given the people of Colombia some joy,” said coach Lara after the match. “But the next match against Costa Rica will be difficult. We will have to be on our toes, keep on working hard and not get carried away by our nine goals today.”
“I have been criticised a bit back home for not playing the Colombian way of controlling games,” added Lara. “But I think today, after playing here for two matches, we showed we have got used to the artificial turf.”
Finland coach Jyrki Heliskoski was philosophical after the hammering and elimination from the finals.
“We needed a win and I think we played our best football of the tournament in the first half,” he said. “The second half was a catastrophe but when you are 4-1 down and you have to win to go through, it is not the time to defend.
“Despite tonight’s scoreline, the competition has been a success for us. We have witnessed great atmospheres here and Finnish football can only prosper because of it.”