Amazing atmosphere, a snorting, cavorting cacophony of Colombians hijacking a ‘home’ game for the Yanks.
Of the 24,235 crowd, probably three-quarters were South American and it made for an ambience even better than some of the World Cup matches I was lucky to see in Brazil.
Who knew so many Colombians were in the UK?
There were raven-haired women with long tresses, olive skin, teeth that sparkled like polished ivory. At half-time, feeling something, possibly a rat or a small dog, under my feet, there were three-year-olds scrambling around the seats as entire extending families made it the Colombians’ biggest party of the year
The side-of-pitch ads flashed up the venue ‘Craven Cottage’. Then ‘London, England’ – as if maybe we didn’t know where we were – though of course that was for the international TV audience.
A sea of yellow shirts, flags-as-pashminas/skirts. This was more than a football match. Signs held up: ‘Paz en Colombia’ (Peace in Colombia).
The noise: howling hysteria even before kick-off. Collectively, Colombians channel a teenager girl’s shrieking adulation for One Direction. James Rodriguez the main focus.
And the fans sustain it impressively
Is Barranqullia as barmy as this when Colombia are at home? If so, my ticket’s booked.
Liked the social media comment: “We give Fulham Dempsey and they give us a Colombia home crowd. Thanks a lot guys.”
That’s exactly what it was. And there was a plenty at stake.
It might have been a friendly but it was the most hotly-contested friendly, possibly ever.
Not here in London, England. Three players were in the book in 35 minutes, one of whom, Colombia’s Aguilar, might well have been sent off had it been a competitive fixture.
It started pleasantly for the hosts. The Polish ref spotted a handball by Pablo Armero and there was a penalty.
The clue to how important a friendly this was came in that one decision. Colombian players , protesting vociferously, demanded a consultation with the linesman. The ref obliged and stuck to his guns.
Two minutes after the offence, Jozy Altidore netted. Probably the Sunderland striker’s only goal he’ll score in England this season.
It was pretty much Colombia all the way after that with the Fiorentina midfielder Cuadrado catching the eye.
James Rodriguez might be the moneybags Real Madridista and star of the side but he certainly wasn’t the stand-out performer. Cuadrado pulled most of the strings.
For the States, a crucial element was missing that made them so good to watch in Brazil. Michael Bradley was not in the squad and his precise, measured passing that prompted his side’s best World Cup moments were absent.
At no time did Klinsmann’s side look like they could hang on to the ball for long periods and create sustain pressure.
In the end, that told, though it took an hour. Bacca seized a ball in the box, ran diagonally past the US keeper Guzan and scored. Gutierrez looked clearly offside but was deemed not to be and though it might not have been fair, the outcome, an evened-up contest was a good reflection of the game up to then
The place went bananas. There can’t have been many bigger explosions of joy in London, England, in years.
The US almost retaliated immediately, their best move the match seeing Vargas make a one-to-one save that kept the sides level.
Colombia relentlessly pressed and the crowd here in London, England, roared them home. Most friendlies turn into candly floss after an hour. Substitutions come by the bucketload and the match takes on Mickey Mouse status as players ensure they go back to the clubs as fresh as daisies after dutifully doing national service.
Nobody told the Colombians. With three minutes to go an attack down the right saw Edwin Cardono swing over a devilish cross for Gutierrez to head home with panache.
More mayhem – I filmed this:
And this was only a friendly.
The Colombians sang with gusto: “U-S-A, Colombia es su padre.” (USA, Colombia is your daddy).
Final whistle three minutes later and all that anti-imperial bile, all that apparent resentment was washed away as if this was revenge for past misdemeanours.
Pitch invaders evaded smiling stewards to mob Sr Rodriguez. No grasshoppers on his arm this time, just sexually-charged Colombian groupies intent on hugging their hero.
He was fighting them off – http://www.redditpics.com/pitch-invaders-in-colombia-vs-usa-match-in-englan,3024253/
A mask-wearing male ran on and he got the third biggest cheer of the night – and that was pretty loud, believe me – as he successfully evaded pursuing stewards.
A quite bewilderingly, endlessly entertaining night out of nowhere. If only all friendlies were like this.
If Colombia ever play in London, England, again, no excuses, you must go.