Before the World Cup began, James Rodriguez was regarded as one of the players with enough potential to emerge as a superstar.
On Saturday, Rodriguez tapped into all of his potential and catapulted Colombia to a 2-0 victory over Uruguay in Rio De Janeiro and to its first ever World Cup quarterfinal.
The 22-year-old Monaco winger came up with two stunning goals to up his World Cup total to five along with two assists, and surpassed Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Neymar as the top scorer in the tournament thus far.
Perhaps a coincidence or even fate, Rodriguez and Colombia will next take on host-nation Brazil, who required a 3-2 shootout victory over Chile after an exhausting 120 minutes produced a 1-1 draw earlier in the day.
Rodriguez first put Colombia up 1-0 in the 28th minute with one of the more jawdropping goals of the tournament thus far.
Rodriguez volleyed and curved midfielder Abel Aguilar’s header to the top left corner of the net and past the hand of Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.
Such a brilliant goal affords Rodriguez comparisons to Dutch star Robin van Persie’s rainbow header in the Cup opener against Spain, Australia forward Tim Cahill’s sidewinder volley and Uruguay’s Luis Suarez with his own fadeway, arching header.
As the second half rolled along, Rodriguez’s second goal was again the result of a beautifully timed header. Midfielder Juan Cuadrado slipped to the right side of the net to head a lob to Rodriguez, whose close-range touch with the right foot made the match 2-0 in the 50th minute.
Colombia keeper David Ospina also came up with four solid saves, and came up with his second clean sheet of the tournament.
The Uruguayan attack looked hapless and confused without star Luis Suarez on the pitch. The top striker missed the first game under the four-month long FIFA ban handed down earlier this week after Suarez bit Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini in the final group stage match.
Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan were responsible for Suarez’s offensive slack, and the duo combined for five shots with none on target, and Uruguay couldn’t maintain any sort of possession.
All told Uruguay walked away with two shots on target, off 13 total shots and lost the possession battle 56-44.