Colombian kid James Rodriguez the main man in Brazil

Jul 03 2014, 11:10 IST
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SummaryRacing towards the camera after scoring direct from a corner at Colombia's top youth tournament in 2004, excited scouts could see James Rodriguez was a kid at ease in the limelight.

Racing towards the camera after scoring direct from a corner at Colombia's top youth tournament in 2004, excited scouts could see James Rodriguez was a kid at ease in the limelight.

A good job too, as a decade on at the World Cup the attacking midfielder's stunning strikes and terrific displays have made him among the hottest footballing properties on the planet.

His rise has been meteoric. With barely a hair on his chiselled chin the 22-year old has won league titles in Argentina and Portugal and last year swapped clubs for 45 million euros ($61.3 million) when he left Porto for mega-rich Monaco.

If that fee did not grab fans' attention then five goals in four games in Brazil, including the tournament's best against Uruguay which flew in off the crossbar from 20 metres, certainly have, sparking comparisons with Lionel Messi and Neymar.

The haul, along with two assists, has made Rodriguez Colombia's top scorer at a World Cup and a hero back home as the team reached their first ever quarter-final in the tournament.

Fitting statistics for a man occupying the number 10 shirt once worn by Colombia great Carlos Valderrama.

"When one superstar is gone, another one has to step up. And that is Rodriguez," Valderrama said.

Operating on the left or in behind the strikers, Rodriguez's reading of the game is intelligent and instinctive.

Comfortable as creator and scorer he has shown his ability in the air and on the ground at the World Cup, not to mention his dance moves as he celebrates goals with a cheeky smile and a little bit of rumba.

He captained Colombia's Under-20 side to the quarter-finals of the Youth World Cup and impressed on his full national debut, taking the man-of-the-match award in a 2-1 victory over Bolivia in October, 2011.

Despite his tender years, Rodriguez headed to Brazil as an important cog in the team until an injury to leading striker Radamel Falcao meant he was suddenly the main man - a responsibility he has taken in his stride.

Born in Cucuta, near Colombia's Venezuelan border, Rodriguez grew up in the central city of Ibague without his father, also a footballer, who left home when he was young.

In a slightly baggy red and yellow shirt his big break came at 12 years of age at the Pony Futbol championship, a hugely popular tournament in Colombia where a host of national players have been discovered, including Falcao in 1998.

Rodriguez

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