Assessment: Colombia and the joy of James
Colombia were arguably the most impressive attacking force in Brazil, but they were ultimately stopped in their tracks by the host nation at the quarterfinal stage. Here is ESPNFC blogger Carl Worswick's verdict on the brighter points of Colombia's campaign, as well as what went wrong.
One sentence World Cup recap
A historic run to the quarterfinals was achieved on back of a near-perfect campaign.
James Rodriguez. Ever since the 22-year-old made his debut for Colombia at the start of the qualifying campaign for Brazil, big things have been expected. But this summer, Rodriguez has gone way beyond what any Colombian could have dreamed.
Switched to a No. 10 role, Rodriguez not only led the team in the absence of injured striker Radamel Falcao, he also defined it. The statistics tell one impressive story: six goals and two assists in four and a half games.
It might very well win him the Golden Boot, and for a player not known for his goal-scoring, also pleasing was that he often found the net with a touch of style. His strike against Uruguay was sensational and came at a crucial time of the game, while the exquisite touch and composure he showed in his goal against Japan underlined what a remarkable talent he is.
More than all that, though, Rodriguez orchestrated Colombia's finest attacking moves with a sublime awareness of space and a devastating ability to switch play. Brazil 2014 has been his tournament, and the world will be hoping to see more of this incredible player very soon.
Prior to this tournament, Colombia had only ever won three World Cup games. In Brazil they clocked up four back-to-back victories, with their final group win against Japan achieved despite eight changes to their starting lineup. Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and Rodriguez caught the eye in the attacking third, but it was a real team effort that was epitomised by 38-year-old captain Mario Yepes' indomitable attitude.
Who could also forget Faryd Mondragon's emotional entrance at the tail end of Colombia's final Group C game to break Roger Milla's record for the World Cup's oldest player? Whether because of the goal celebrations or the colourfully infectious hordes of travelling fans, Colombia became the neutral supporter's favourite in Brazil this summer.
There were very few, but the first half of the quarterfinal against Brazil was perhaps Colombia's biggest test of the tournament, and they struggled. Carlos Sanchez was responsible for switching off for Thiago Silva's early opening goal, but it was the whole team who then laboured badly against a Brazil side enjoying their best period of the tournament. Still, even then Colombia were able to finally regroup and ride above the brutality of a very physical game; for the last 20 minutes they showed touches of class and ran Brazil right to the line. Unfortunately, by that time, it was a little too late to wrestle the match into extra time, but they went out fighting and with their heads held high.
Even without their star striker and several other injured players, Colombia are still one of the best teams in the world. Under the sagacious leadership of coach Jose Pekerman, Colombia not only won games -- they did so in style too. After 16 years without a World Cup finals appearance, the experience of Brazil will be crucial for future successes.
This squad is still relatively young, so the future looks bright. Rodriguez will be the basis for the next generation of players, including Eder Balanta and Juan Fernando Quintero, but perhaps more important has been the lesson taught by Pekerman.
All team assessments
Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast | Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
Colombia have had golden generations before, but it has been the Argentine coach's discipline, leadership and tactical acumen that have crafted this team into the force they are today. With Pekerman's contract now up, the Colombian federation needs to act quickly to tie the country's most successful coach down to a new deal. If they achieve that, this Colombian side has all the right ingredients to be a dominant force in world football for years to come.
Carl Worswick is a British journalist who has spent the last four years living in the Colombian capital Bogota. He writes for the likes of The Blizzard, World Soccer, WSC and Fifa.com and will be in Brazil this summer writing about the Colombian national team.