James Rodriguez left this World Cup inconsolable, with tears streaming down his face.
His Colombia side had fought valiantly, but came up short against the Brazilian juggernaut, who continued their 39 year unbeaten record on home soil.
In the game Rodriguez continued to establish himself as one of the brightest talents in world football.
A 22-year-old named Neymar was supposed to shine tonight, but it was Rodriguez, of the same age, donning Colombia’s red away strip with ‘James’ emblazoned on the back, who stole the limelight.
He has done it for the entirety of the World Cup so far.
And as he left the pitch he did so with David Luiz’s arm pointing towards him. The adulation of the Brazilian public was directed at their eleven heroes on the pitch, but Luiz had recognised the game’s real star had been playing for the opposition.
He is not the first to direct their attention towards Rodriguez at this World Cup, either. Jose Peckerman, the Colombian boss who is revered by supporters of the South American nation, was effusive in his praise for his nation’s central figure.
"In my experience, I've had extraordinary football player, elite players,” he explained. “I've placed everything in James and what is most surprising at this young age; he has no problem with being responsible for doing things that take football players a long time to achieve.
"Football forces you to deal with a lot of situations. You have to handle these situations. He has everything of a top-notch player. I praised what he's doing and never had any doubts that this would be James Rodriguez's World Cup."
It has been, too. Although it would be misleading to call Rodriguez an unknown quantity – he has already moved for a fee of €45 million, after moving from Porto to Monaco this summer – this tournament has been his emergence. He has announced himself on the world stage now and made his price-tag look a bargain, rather than excessive.
On a par with Ronaldo
Rodriguez scored in every game of the tournament that he played in and has become the first player since Ronaldo in 2002 to score more than five goals in a World Cup tournament.
As a result, already Europe’s top clubs are sniffing. Real Madrid have been linked, but will only bid if they can offload Angel Di Maria. It would cap off an incredible summer for Rodriguez.
The Monaco starlet even caused Brazil, a nation famed for playing with flair, creativity and skill to resort to hacking.
Fernandinho was specifically designated to stop Colombia’s creative fulcrum and his role really was stop him at all means possible. The Manchester City somehow avoided a booking, but if he left his mark on Rodriguez, who was pummelled time after time by the defensive midfielder.
It was hard to blame him. Rodriguez is a player who is impossible to stop when he gets going, he rounds players with an ease only associated with the very best. It isn’t so much a dribble, but a glide when in possession. He has often danced in celebration during the tournament, but he also does so with the ball at his feet.
It is not just from Colombia that the plaudits have come, either. Oscar Tabarez, the manager of Uruguay, who Rodriguez scored twice against at the second-round stage, says that the World Cup has to have players like the former Porto man. “Football needs players of his characteristics for this spectacle,” he said. “For the moment, he’s the best player at this World Cup.”
"Football has no age. It's obvious that experience helps, but you have to play and put your talent into practice,” Neymar, the poster-boy of the tournament, agreed prior to the last eight encounter.
"He is a great player despite his young age. We are both 22, but he has been showing what he is capable of.”
If he continues to do so he looks set to be a star. The last image of Rodriguez in the competition may be him in tears, but his over-riding legacy at this tournament will be a much happier one.
James Rodriguez’s World Cup may have ended, but his career is just getting started.
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