Under the coachmanship of Francisco Maturana, Colombia had a great run in the qualifying matches for the 15th. FIFA World Cup in 1994 was suavely called USA’94 with their best World Cup qualifier being the 5-0 pulverization of highly rated Argentina on 5th.September 1993.
With the spectacular performances, the Colombian football fraternity became optimistic that their national team was loaded to the brim with young and highly talented footballers who will at least improve on their ranking after coming 14th out of 16 teams.& 19th out of 24 teams in their two previous outings in 1962 & 1990. The Colombians were in group A at the World Cup in 1994 with hosts USA, Switzerland, and Romania.
In their first group game, in the presence of 73,425 spectators inside the grand architecturally designed Rose Bowl in Los Angeles California the Colombians were flattered, shattered, and battered 3-1 by the Anghel Iordanescu-coached Romanian team. Florin Raducioui scored a brace in the 16th.&89th.minutes while Skipper Gheorghe Hagi scored in the 34th.minute.Adolfo Valencia pulled. one back for Colombia in the 43rd.minute. In spite of this defeat, the Colombian fans believed that the team captained by Carlos Alberto Valderrama will still make it to the knockout stage but the uphill task was to beat the host nation USA which recorded a 1-1 draw against Switzerland in their first match and were in a very tight situation to reach the knock stage.
The match between Colombia and USA attracted 93,869 spectators to the Rose Bowl on 26 June. The tactically absorbing, physically demanding, and emotionally saddening match was only 35minutes into the first half when Andres Escobar Saldirriaga one of Colombia’s most reliable defense generalissimo who was making his second appearance at the World Cup after Italia ’90. Andres Escobar Saldirriaga scored an OWN GOAL in the 35th.minute.
The faces of Colombia football fans suddenly changed to sorrow, sadness, and gnashing of teeth.
Earnie Stewart scored another goal for the Bora Velibor Milutinovic-coached United States team. Adolfo Valencia again pulled one back for Colombia to end 2-1 in their disfavor. In their third group game four days later on 26 June, Hernan Gaviria and John Harold Lozano scored for Colombia in the 44th.&90th.minutes.
With two losses and a win, the Colombian team with great players like Faustino Hernan Asprillia, Oscar Eduardo Cordoba, Andres Escobar, Luis Fernando Herrera, Carlos Valderrama, and other members of the team returned to Bogota in humiliation.
On 2 July 1994, the 27year old great defender and a gentleman off and on the field and highly respected
Andres Escobar was shot dead because of the own goal he scored in that match. His funeral attracted over 100,000 mourners and sympathizers.
The global football fraternity condemned this dastardly act.
It has gone down in the history of the World Cup as the most dastardly act.
RIP.Andres Escobar Saldirriaga…!