FORTALEZA, Brazil – Colombia has been playing the exciting brand of football that Brazilians believe their own team should be playing at this World Cup.
They’ve also been dancing after goals, bringing a spirit of fun to the pitch. Fullback Camilo Zuniga puts it down to coach Jose Pekerman’s philosophy of mixing amusement with responsibility.
Zuniga, who will be a key figure in marking Brazil forward Neymar in today’s quarterfinal match, said Pekerman “helped us believe in ourselves.”
“He drilled in our heads that we were good,” Zuniga said. “He drilled into our heads that a Colombian with the ball should have fun, that he shouldn’t have to play with pressure, but that it comes with responsibility.”
Zuniga, who likes to attack down the flanks, said that the dancing is in the “Colombian blood.” But he stressed that his first duty as a defender will be to contain Neymar and help the team keep a clean sheet.
Colombian goal celebrations have been choreographed dances, including salsa, with up to 10 players moving in lines together. And there’s been plenty of them – Colombia’s 11 goals in four games is second only to Netherlands in the tournament. James Rodriguez has scored a tournament-leading five goals and has been one of the stars of the tournament. Neymar, the Brazilian forward who could rightly feel like he’s carrying the weight of the host nation, has scored half of Brazil’s eight goals.
When asked if the dancing after goals bothered him because he’s an Argentine and may not be used to it, Pekerman said he wasn’t bothered in the least.
“It’s joyful, but sincere,” he said, adding that he lived in Colombia for many years as a player and one of his daughters was born there. “It’s a way of the boys communicating in something that is a goal. They have this energy, I like it, but always with respect.
“It’s something like a hug. It shouldn’t bother anybody.”
An overpass under construction collapsed Thursday in Belo Horizonte, killing at least two people and trapping a commuter bus, two construction trucks and a car in an embarrassment for a country that has been basking in praise for what has mostly been a smoothly running soccer tournament.
At least 22 people were listed as injured along with the two deaths, Brazilian officials said. There no word on whether foreign tourists were among those killed or injured.
Authorities didn’t think the casualty numbers would rise too sharply – though they said they had not yet reached a small passenger car that was flattened by the falling overpass. It was not known if anyone inside the car escaped or remained inside. Officials said they would be working through the night trying to get to the car.
The incident is the biggest black eye yet for Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup, which has been carried out with less chaos than many had feared.
After Brazil was awarded the World Cup in 2007, politicians promised $8 billion would be spent on 56 airports, subway lines and other such projects nationwide. But less than 10 of the infrastructure projects were completed in time for the tournament, including the project where the overpass collapsed in Belo Horizonte.
It was not known what caused the overpass to fall. Cowan, the construction company responsible for building it, said investigators were on site but had not released any conclusions.
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