Freddy Rincon brought fun and artistry to Colombian football and died far too young at 55

WEST Germany had won both of their first two World Cup group games at Italia 90, and with their place in the knock out rounds guaranteed, they were not at full tilt against Colombia.

Even so, the Germans had no intention of being bamboozled by the Colombians, who gave them the run around for almost all of the ninety minutes. 

The late Freddy Rincon with his best mate Carlos ValderramaCredit: AFP

Freddy Rincon was a star of a brilliant Colombia side

Freddy Rincon was a star of a brilliant Colombia sideCredit: AFP

Colombia were constructed around the talent of central midfielder Carlos Valderrama, a frizzy haired footballing musician. 

He was a player who always had the ball – and never had it. 

Go to close him down, and suddenly the ball had vanished, transformed into a rabbit, or, more likely, at the feet of his lieutenant, Freddy Rincon. 

Like a giant cat playing with a ball of wool, Rincon brought fun and artistry to the game.

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With two minutes to go, entirely against the run of play, West Germany took the lead. 

This was bad news for Colombia. 

They only needed a draw.  Now they were facing elimination.  Valderrama and Rincon changed priorities. 

Instead of their bewildering sequence of flicks and tricks, they now went direct. 

The two of them conjured up a move that undressed the German defence, and Rincon slipped in the goal that took Colombia into the knock out stage for the first time.

It was a highpoint in a glorious career – and of a life cut short too soon when he died last week in a traffic accident.

Rincon was a key part of an exuberant Colombia side that, by their own account, came of age in a 1-1 draw at Wembley against England in 1988. 

Their goal came from centre back Andres Escobar – whose own goal against the USA in the World Cup six years later was to have such tragic consequences. 

Freddy Rincon's wake attracted many mourners, including fans and ex-team-mates

Freddy Rincon’s wake attracted many mourners, including fans and ex-team-matesCredit: Reuters

A wake was held for Freddy Rincon on Saturday after his sad death this week

A wake was held for Freddy Rincon on Saturday after his sad death this weekCredit: AFP

The pressures of USA 94, and of being placed among the favourites by Pele, were too much for a team representing a country that was wallowing in the chaos of the drug cartels. 

Outside the pressures of the tournament, they were a truly great team. 

Argentina had never lost a World Cup qualifier at home until Colombia swept them aside with a 5-0 win in Buenos Aires.

In France 98 it was England who brought the curtain down on a great Colombian generation. 

By then they were a team in decline.  But Rincon was not a player in decline. 

He still had much to offer, and reinvented himself in Brazil, in a deeper role. 

No longer the rampaging attacking midfielder, he was now the holder, sitting in front of the centre backs and distributing the ball with quality.

In the Club World Cup of 2000, Manchester United were torn apart by the talent of Vasco da Gama’s Romario and Edmundo. 

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In the final against Corinthians, Rincon ensured there would be no repeat. 

He positioned himself between the two strikers, ensuring they could not combine, and gave his side the platform to win the game and claim the title.

Freddy Rincon has gone far too young, at the age of 55. 

But he will live on in the hearts of all those who love their football with a refined touch.


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