Over the next few days we’ll look at several memorable World Cup (WC) qualifying matches involving teams from around the Americas.
Argentina and Colombia are on the cusp of earning automatic spots in next year’s WC that will be held in Brazil. The former could gain their ticket to Brazil on Friday despite having the day off while a Colombian win over Ecuador could give los cafeteros their first WC qualification since 1998.
On this night twenty years ago both squads faced each other in a crucial match at Buenos Aires’ Estadio Monumental. On paper, Argentina rarely squandered their home advantage and was surely the odds-on favorite to book their ticket to the 1994 WC. (Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona boasted before the game “They cannot break history. We will continue with what is typically ours; that is, Argentina on top and Colombia on the bottom.”) What occurred on that crisp evening was a tale that not even the most optimistic Colombian fan would’ve ever imagined:
The 5-0 demolition by Colombia was, as Rob Smyth wrote in The Guardian five years ago, proof that “the age-old, yet increasingly ignored, maxim that a successful team does not necessarily comprise the best players.”
In the immediate aftermath of the historic cinco a cero, the ecstasy in Colombia stood in sharp contrast to the frustration in Argentina.
The day after the match, some 70,000 people gathered at Bogota’s main international airport to welcomed the team home and celebrate their automatic berth to the WC. The Argentine press, meanwhile, had a field day ripping the albiceleste to shreds that included the unfair scapegoating of goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea on a live TV program by sports commentator José Sanfilippo.
Six weeks after the stunned silence at el Monumental, the stadium would be a cauldron of joy when Argentina beat Australia to qualify to the WC.
The next year, Colombia endured a humiliating WC campaign that ended in the group stage though the greater tragedy was the assassination of defender Andres Escobar. Maradona, who came out of retirement to guide Argentina over the Aussies, was embarrassingly expelled from the WC after he failed a drugs test.
Two decades after the famous 5-0 match, soccer fans in both Argentina and Colombia vividly remember that game with varying feelings but with the hope that a possible WC qualification could lead to wonderful results in Brazil next summer.
Video Source – YouTube via users Mario Lopez and futbolretrocba
Online Sources – GlobalPost; marca.com; The Guardian; TN.com.ar