When Teofilo Gutierrez came off with 14 minutes remaining of Colombia’s 3-0 win over Greece this afternoon, he received the warmest of ovations. That came as no surprise, given the size of his contribution to the Cafetero cause and the large number of yellow-shirted supporters populating the Estadio Mineirao, which could easily have been mistaken for the Estadio Metropolitano in his home town of Barranquilla.
Only a few moments before he was replaced, Gutierrez had put his side 2-0 up, a vital goal in helping the Colombians get off to an auspicious start in Group C of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Handed the No9 shirt that Radamel Falcao would have worn had he not been injured, Gutierrez proved a more than able deputy.
“The coaches and my team-mates gave me the confidence to wear the jersey,” the forward, who wore the number 19 during the qualifiers, told FIFA.com shortly after his side’s 3-0 victory. “It was important for me to repay that faith with a goal, a goal that’s also reinforced my self-belief. We all need to work for the good of the team here, because the team is each and every one of us.”
With Falcao in the stands, having made the journey from Colombia with Luis Perea to cheer his colleagues on, Gutierrez could have been excused for feeling a little more pressure than usual. If he was, the goalscorer showed no sign of it, helping to create play and working tirelessly for the team, revealing attributes that are the hallmark of Jose Pekerman’s side.
“Radamel always keeps an eye on us. He’s a great striker and a lovely person and I’d like to dedicate part of this win to him,” said the 29-year-old front man, still sporting a plaster protecting a cut over his left eye, an inconvenience that did nothing to dampen his afternoon.
Colombia were well worth the three points, attacking at pace and defending solidly, as their new No9 explained: “We came here with a plan and we were only too happy to put it into place. That’s the kind of game we play. We enjoy ourselves and we feel very comfortable with our style of football.”
Another reason why Los Cafeteros felt comfortable in Belo Horizonte was the sizeable contingent of Colombia fans who had come to support them, turning the Mineirao a bright shade of yellow.
“I wasn’t surprised by them,” commented the smiling River Plate man. “The Colombia fans have been waiting for this moment, and with it being so close I expected them to turn up in numbers. It was very exciting.”
Gutierrez, who has now scored 13 goals in 31 international appearances, signed off with a promise: “It was a dream world finals debut because it’s not every day that you score a goal, especially in the World Cup. The best is still to come, though.”