An Erwin Carrillo golden goal at the end of the first period of extra time sent Colombia into raptures and snatched a cliff-hanger of a victory over Ireland in the last sixteen at the FIFA World Youth Championship UAE 2003. Al Ain's Sheikh Khalifa stadium witnessed what was to be the Europeans' farewell appearance in the competition. The booty for Reinaldo Rueda's heroes is a meeting with the hosts in the quarter-finals.
While neither side seemed particularly willing to stamp their mark on the game from the kick-off, it was the Colombians that looked sharper in attack. And it was not long before Edixon Perea managed to connect with a long ball and come close to finding the back of Wayne Henderson's net (5'). The Irish refused to learn their lesson and were caught napping in a similar move five minutes later. Victor Montaño pumped it in for Perea to chase after again and this time the striker fired home with his left peg to the glee of the South American contingent in the stands (0-1; 11').
The Irish answered back the only way they know how, with the ball in the air: a cross from the left found the head of Eamon Zayed, but his effort went wide of the mark (14'). Amazingly, this was to be the last goalmouth incident of the half. For the remainder of the first 45 minutes, Rueda's protégés strove to keep possession and control the pace of the game, while the Irish temporarily fell apart amid aimless crosses and harmless passes across the Colombians' defensive line.
With the match in this vague, uncertain phase, the teams filed off for the break.
The half-time oranges must have done the trick for the Europeans. They came out for the second 45 minutes hell bent on levelling the tie. Stephen Elliot was first to go near but Landazuri showed a safe pair of hands (49'). Colombia, meanwhile, dropped back and dug in around their keeper, who had to cut out a barrage of crosses to keep his sheet momentarily clean.
A short time later, Flood mounted a fresh charge with the ball ending up at Elliot's feet again, but the Colombian custodian was equal to his right-footed shot (56').
The Cafeteros weathered the storm and picked up possession as they tried to knock it around midfield. And that is how the second thunderbolt hit the Sheikh Khalifa stadium. Victor Montaño, who had been firing them in from way out all tournament, finally got his reward when his fierce right-footed strike from the top of the penalty box flew into the bottom corner (0-2; 70'). Colombia had their rivals on the ropes and had repeated chances to put the match beyond the Irish, but a lack of clear ideas on the part of the forwards meant opportunities were squandered. Perea lost out on three separate occasions when he only had Henderson to beat.
However, Gerry Smith's boys were not giving up without a fight and made the most of an unforced error in the South American defence to pull one back. A cross sent in from the right fell to substitute Kevin Doyle. The striker was amazed to find he had time to turn and control before blasting the ball high into a despairing Landazuri's net (1-2; 85').
"We were on a knife-edge by the last few minutes and that's what brought about the mistake at the back. They made the most of their aerial strength, which Colombia have had no answers to in recent years," Rueda would say after the game.
The countdown to the final whistle saw Ireland piling on the pressure with hopeful crosses and long balls raining down into the Colombian box. The South Americans circled the wagons around Landazuri's goal and prayed for the minutes to tick by. Their prayers went unanswered, however, as Paddy McCarthy headed home to take it into extra-time (90' +2).
But Irish eyes were not smiling very long. Abel Aguilar controlled the ball on the right, beat his man and headed for the by line. The number 14 whipped in a low cross for Erwin Carrillo to run on to and the substitute sent the Cafetero fans wild with a right-footed finish (2-3; 104').
"I'm really proud of my players. And I wouldn't say 100 per cent proud, I'd say 150 per cent proud. We had our chances to win the game, but Colombia played a fantastic match too. I think we were unlucky and that the Colombians will go far in the tournament," said a satisfied Gerry Smith. Reinaldo Rueda, on the other hand, was as cautious as ever: "The players were on their last legs when the equaliser went in, but luckily they got back on their feet and came through when it mattered. We now have weigh up UAE to see what we're up against."