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Colombia's Rodriguez 'like Maradona'

ESPN staff
June 29, 2014 « Podolski to miss Algeria clash | Crawford stops Gamboa to retain world title »
James Rodriguez opened the scoring for Colombia against Uruguay with a sublime volley © Getty Images
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Colombia's James Rodriguez has been lauded as the best player to have graced this World Cup so far and likened to Diego Maradona.

Rodriguez took his tally for the tournament to five goals in Saturday's 2-0 last-16 win over Uruguay, the first of which was a stunning volley that has been hailed as the best strike of the tournament, with beaten Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez clearly impressed.

"I've seen him play for a while," said Tabarez. "He arrived in Argentina at 17 and showed he was a talented player. Those who do things which have nothing to do with life experience, Maradona, [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez, they do things because they have certain gifts that make them special. He's the best player in the World Cup. I don't think I'm exaggerating.

"We tried to limit him a lot but he kept coming and made his presence felt. Hopefully he will develop because he is very young and football needs players with these characteristics."

Rodriguez, 22, has scored in each of Colombia's four wins as well as providing two assists from the No.10 position behind the main striker with Jose Pekerman's side the tournament's leading scorers as they head to quarter-final meeting with hosts Brazil.

Of the Maradona comparison, Rodriguez said: "I have great pride that someone like him [Tabarez] said that. I only want to help so that the team wins and can make it far. Brazil is a hard team with great players who have history. You always have a plan we've always done that. Against Brazil this won't change."

Pekerman said Colombia have "placed everything" at the feet of Rodriguez.

"Good players make a difference," said Pekerman. "James has been doing it in each match. He's been essential and fundamental. He has given us a lot. Such a young player, you expect they play well technically, but he has grown a lot in having responsibility

"In my long experience, I've had extraordinary players, elite ones of a high technical level. I placed everything on James. What's surprising is that at his age he has no problem being responsible to do things that much older players do. James scores important goals.

"Football forces you to deal with situations and we have a technical player with all the conditions of a top player at world level. I never had any doubts, never any that this would be James's World Cup."

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