Soccer-Colombian Mondragon becomes oldest World Cup player


* Tears of joy as Mondragon, 43, sets World Cup record

* Surpasses Cameroon striker Roger Milla (Adds Mondragon, coach, player quotes)

By Mary Milliken

CUIABA, Brazil, June 24 (Reuters) - Colombia reserve goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon wiped away the tears in making World Cup history on Tuesday as the oldest man to play in the finals at the age of 43.

Mondragon, whose birthday was last Saturday, broke the record held by former Cameroon striker Roger Milla, who played at the age of 42 in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman sent Mondragon off the bench in the 85th minute of their third and final Group C match against Japan with the South American team having already qualified for the last 16 and leading Japan 3-1.

The Colombia-dominated crowd erupted as Mondragon ran on to the pitch with tears streaming down his face and he embraced departing keeper David Ospina warmly as he left.

"The first thing I did was to embrace (Pekerman) and give him a kiss, because for me it was like a prize," Mondragon said. "He could have made another substitution a lot earlier for another player."

Both Colombian players and fans had been badgering Pekerman over the last few days to make Mondragon's milestone happen on Tuesday. But on the eve of the match, the Argentine was reticent to do anything for sentimental reasons.

"We waited for the right time and happily today we could give him some minutes to make the goalkeeper the oldest player in the World Cup," Pekerman told a news conference.

Mondragon was in Colombia's World Cup squads in 1994 and 1998, the last time the Andean country was in the finals when he started all three games before they were eliminated at the group stage.

Jackson Martinez, who scored twice on Tuesday, said the 43-year-old is the kind of team mate who provides invaluable guidance to a young squad.

"And he is a great goalkeeper who can defend us at any time," Martinez said. (editing by Justin Palmer)

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