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Bittersweet World Cup exit for joyous Rodriguez

AFP
Colombia's James Rodriguez (left) is comforted by Brazil's David Luiz after the World Cup quarter-final at the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza, on July 4, 2014
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Colombia's James Rodriguez (left) is comforted by Brazil's David Luiz after the World Cup quarter-final at the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza, on July 4, 2014 (AFP Photo/Vanderlei Almeida)

Fortaleza (Brazil) (AFP) - As the World Cup's top scorer James Rodriguez exited the stage that has made him a world star, there was one last standing ovation.

The 22-year-old wiped the tears from his cheeks as he trudged off the field in Fortaleza on Friday despite having netted his sixth goal in five games as Brazil progressed to the last four 2-1.

And it was the hosts' match-winner David Luiz who appealed to the home crowd to raise the roof in appreciation as he consoled Colombia's number 10.

"Having so many great players hugging me made me happy," admitted the Monaco playmaker, who has become a leading target to be Real Madrid's next galactico purchase with his performances in Brazil.

Colombia's lesson is one Brazil could well learn from in the coming week as they try to cope without star striker Neymar after he suffered a broken vertebrae in his back in the closing stages of the match.

Los Cafeteros lost their leading goalscorer before the tournament even began in Brazil, but Radamel Falcao's unfortunate knee injury allowed Rodriguez to take the lead role as Colombia reached the last eight for the first time in their history.

"The work of James in the World Cup has been excellent. We expected this of him because he is an exceptional player that has huge talent and ambition," said Colombia boss Jose Pekerman.

In addition to that abundant talent, most visibly demonstrated by his sensational dipping volley to open the scoring against Uruguay in the last 16, Rodriguez showed no little guts in Fortaleza.

Time and again he was targeted by Brazil's hatchet men as they tried to kick him out his stride with little protection offered by Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.

And when Colombia did finally get a break 10 minutes from time when Carlos Bacca was chopped down by Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar, Rodriguez coolly slotted home the spot-kick to briefly give his country hope.

"Unfortunately, the referee didn't help a lot," he complained, having been ludicrously booked himself for the foul that paved the way for Luiz to win the game with a stunning second-half free kick.

"He wasn't able to develop his skills 100 percent during the match because there were many moments when it wasn’t easy to have rhythm," bemoaned Pekerman.

"There were a lot of contested balls and both teams cut the play short, so the great players couldn't do what they wanted."

The brightside for Colombia is this should be just the beginning for Rodriguez and his crew of talented young teammates with two editions of the Copa America to come in the next two years before another crack on the world stage in four years time.

"I told him he has many great World Cups in front of him," said Brazil right-back Dani Alves.

Yet, there is still regret at seeing Rodriguez join a list of star names that includes Neymar, Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo to exit before the semi-finals

"I tried to calm him down because he deserves a huge congratulations, added Pekerman.

"We have been able to enjoy the way he plays and this elimination leaves one of the best players out of the World Cup."

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