The group stage of the 2014 World Cup has been a tournament marked by budding stars like Brazil's Neymar and established performers in their primes such as Arjen Robben of the Netherlands. However, in one of the final two matches of Group C, 43-year-old Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon grabbed a very different sort of attention simply by appearing on the pitch at all.
In the 85th minute, with Colombia comfortably ahead 3-1 vs. Japan, manager Jose Pekerman subbed out starting goalkeeper David Ospina for Mondragon. The decision was not made for strategic purposes, but simply to allow Mondragon to achieve a new World Cup record as the oldest player in the history of the tournament. Mondragon, who turned 43 just this past Saturday, broke the record previously held by Cameroonian striker Roger Milla, who played a major role for his country in 1994 and even managed to score a goal at 42 years old.
Mondragon didn't play such a big part in Colombia's eventual 4-1 victory, making a sole save in a match that was already decided. For that matter, he doesn't figure to get into another game in this World Cup — he's the squad's third-choice keeper and isn't even affiliated with a club team at this moment.
Nevertheless, Mondragon achieved something truly memorable against Japan. With 56 career caps, he has not been a fixture in Colombian soccer. However, Mondragon (who played for the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer in 2011) is one of two Colombians to take part in five World Cup qualifying campaigns (midfielder Carlos Valderrama is the other) and is the only player in the world to feature in all six World Cup qualification processes dating back to the 1994 tournament. That also makes him Colombia's last remaining active connection to the nation's golden generation, which entered 1994 with huge expectations and saw great disappointment on the pitch followed by the tragic murder of defender Andres Escobar. The hugely entertaining and impressive 2014 squad represents Colombia's best group of players since 1994 and now has a chance to chase some of the demons of that tournament.
After the final whistle, Mondragon celebrated the moment and attempted to bring his young children down from the stands. Unfortunately, he was stopped from doing so by an official on the scene.
While that decision suggests some misplaced priorities, it's fair to say that nothing will stop Mondragon and his family from enjoying his achievement. His appearance wasn't necessarily a spectacular one, but it should go down as one of the coolest moments of the 2014 World Cup.
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