Para was the first to score, and he celebrated by placing his hands on his head and swaying his hips. Then it was the turn of Neymar, who went for a different routine. But what few people had bargained for that afternoon at the Estadio Vila Belmiro in Santos was that, in the land of samba, the true dance master would be a Colombian.
“My Palmeiras team were playing Santos,” said the man in question, Cafetero left-back Pablo Armero, taking up the story. “They took the lead, with Neymar, Robinho and Ganso celebrating the goals by doing a little dance. But then we equalised. I put a cross in and my team-mate Robert scored, and we started to dance too. The opposition fans were shouting at us, but when they saw the way I was dancing they started to laugh.”
Armero’s frenetic dance that afternoon, back in 2010, became known as Armeration and was loudly applauded by Palmeiras fans. And judging by events in Colombia’s debut match against Greece at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, the celebratory routine is very much alive and well.
It was Armero who set the South Americans on the way to a 3-0 win against the Greeks with the opening goal, one that prompted him to reprise his signature piece of choreography, with Armeration quickly becoming a trending topic on Brazilian Twitter feeds. “It’s great that people still remember it,” said the chuckling defender, in conversation with FIFA.com.
Colombia earned their status as one of the sensations of Brazil 2014 thanks to their entertaining football, James Rodriguez’s electrifying form and, of course, the goal celebrations orchestrated by the loose-limbed Armero and faithfully recreated by his team-mates.
The tightest of troupes
Having made a little piece of history by downing Uruguay in the Round of 16 to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time, the Colombians are understandably feeling pretty pleased with life. That said, Armero is determined to keep his feet on the ground, explaining that he and his team-mates are nowhere near fulfilling their expectations yet.
“We are working hard to go as far as we can,” he said. “We knew from the very first game that it wasn’t going to be easy, and our approach is to take things one step at a time. We haven’t come here to enjoy ourselves but to give our all and go for glory.”
The next obstacle for the freewheeling Colombians is none other than hosts Brazil. Looking ahead to this Friday’s duel at Fortaleza’s Estadio Castelao, Armero said: “It’s going to be a great game because both sides like to play good football.”
If we’re going to nullify the threat posed by Neymar, then everyone in the team will have to lend a helping hand to the players marking him.
While A Seleçao needed penalties to see off Chile in the last round, the marauding left-back refused to accept that Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team are there for the taking: “Brazil are not weak if you ask me. What’s happening is that all the teams want to go far, which is something we’ve been seeing since the World Cup started. Every team wants to win and they’re showing that. You also have to remember that Chile are a tough side with some great players.”
As Armero knows, one of the keys to success against Brazil lies in keeping a close eye on one of his old rivals: “If we’re going to nullify the threat posed by Neymar, then everyone in the team will have to lend a helping hand to the players marking him,” he explained, highlighting the togetherness of this Colombia side, one of their defining features.
Reinforcing that point, he said: “We need to stick together and not lose our focus. We’re a compact side, and we know that when we all play for each other we tend to get results.”
During the course of the two seasons he spent at Palmeiras, Armero came out on top against Neymar on various occasions, one of them being the day that Armeration came into being, when O Verdão won 4-3 and the Colombian full-back upstaged the then Santos star with his dance moves. All that remains to be seen now is who will be doing a jig of delight when the final whistle blows on Friday.