Fourteen youngsters in yellow jerseys, and an insightful 51-year-old, inspired one of the most unforgettable nights in Colombian football history in Bogota tonight. As hosts of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, they desperately coveted a winning start to their Group A campaign against European champions France. Los Cafeteros didn't just get that victory, they got a resounding one, with a double from Luis Muriel, a James Rodriguez penalty and a Santiago Arias strike earning them a come-from-behind 4-1 defeat of one of the pre-tournament favourites.
The result sent Colombia top of Group A, on goal difference from Korea Republic, who overcame Mali 2-0 earlier today.
There was an inimitable atmosphere at the Estadio Nemesio Camacho leading up to kick-off, and Colombia enhanced it by making an exhilarating start to the game. With just two minutes on the clock, they were inches from going in front, Michael Ortega's vicious long-ranger smashing against the crossbar.
Goalkeeper Cristian Bonilla made an admirable save from France forward Antoine Griezmann on eight minutes, before the South Americans responded through strikes by Didier Moreno and Jose Valencia.
Against the run of play, though, France opened the scoring. Gilles Sunu masterfully eluded his marker before unleashing a thumping shot which Bonilla got fingertips to but couldn't keep out. It provoked silence.
Colombia restored parity on the half-hour mark. Rodriguez's brilliant pass sent Arias into the box, and the No4 was upended by Kalidou Koulibaly. Rodriguez, the Porto entertainer, sent Ligali the wrong way from the spot.
On the stroke of half-time, Ortega found himself in a one-on-one situation with Ligali, but the France keeper made a fine save with his legs.
Three minutes. That is all Colombia need to assume the lead following the restart. An Ortega back-heel freed Muriel, who slipped past his man and slotted the ball home to deafening cheers.
Bonilla then frustrated Griezmann again with two marvelous saves, though the former must have resigned himself to conceding a second goal when France substitute Alexandre Lacazette skipped round him and faced an empty net. Inconceivably, however, the No19 missed the target.
Colombia immediately punished that miss, with Arias arriving at the back post to make it 3-1. It was soon four, Muriel latching on to an Ortega through-ball to thump the ball past Ligali.
It could, and should, have been 5-1 on 73 minutes. Muriel outfoxed Sebastien Faure with some mesmerizing trickery, and was duly fouled inside the penalty area. However, Rodriguez's resulting spot-kick was saved.
Did it spoil the euphoric mood? Not one iota. This was a night those present will be reminiscing about for a long time to come.