Gutierrez strike ends Colombian jinx

Last Updated 19 June 2014, 19:03 IST

Teofilo Gutierrez faced two challenges before the World Cup started: try and make Colombia forget the absence of Radamel Falcao and break the curse of the number nine.

The combustible striker has already overcome one of those by becoming the first player wearing the Colombia number nine shirt to score a goal at a World Cup finals.

Although number nine is traditionally worn by the first-choice striker in South American football, it has been anything but synonymous with goals as far as Colombia are concerned.

Jaime Silva wore the shirt on Colombia's World Cup debut in 1962, but failed to hit the target.

Next up was Miguel Herrera who did not even get on to the pitch when Colombia returned to the stage 28 years later.

Four years on, the shirt was awarded to Ivan Valenciano, known as El Gordo (the Fat One), who played only 45 minutes in their unhappy campaign and also drew a blank.

In 1998 it was Adolfo Valencia's turn but, even though the striker known as "The Train" had scored twice in 1994 wearing number 11, he misfired as Colombia managed only one goal in three games.

Although Gutierrez has lived in Falcao's shadow, he was almost as effective in the World Cup qualifying campaign, scoring six goals compared to the talismanic striker's nine.

Since Falcao's injury, coach Jose Pekerman has preferred him to Porto's Jackson Martinez and Sevilla's Carlos Bacca, although with Colombia's wealth of attacking options he cannot afford to have an off day.

Now playing for Argentina's River Plate, he has a volatile personality that led him to walk out on teams in Turkey, Argentina and Mexico.

The Colombian fans will hope that Gutierrez can shun that impetuous streak, at least for the duration of the tournament.

He certainly seems to have calmed down since his move to River.

(Published 19 June 2014, 17:57 IST)

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