Back in the 1994 World Cup, Colombia were tipped as one of the favourites to lift the trophy after they managed to finish top of their qualifying group.
During their impressive qualification, they thrashed Argentina 5-0 and Brazil legend Pele tipped them as the team to beat.
With the expectations of the whole nation on their shoulders, the Colombia side headed to the tournament full of optimism and hope.
However, their World Cup dream ended in a horrendous nightmare as they crashed out at the very first hurdle. The early exit ended up costing the life of defender Andres Escobar.
Escobar scored an own goal during the 2-1 defeat against the United States and it was reported that members of a powerful drug cartel back in Colombia had placed huge money on that particular match.
After his country’s exit from the World Cup, Escobar was warned by his friends to keep a low profile for a while. But Escobar said: “I must show my face to my people.”
Just five days after the elimination, Escobar was murdered whilst sitting in his car outside a nightclub in the city of Medellin.
The defender was shot six times and it was later revealed that Escobar’s killers shouted ‘Goal!’ after each shot, one for each time the match commentator shouted the same word during the live broadcast of the match.
One of the drug lords’ bodyguards, Humberto Castro Munoz was arrested a day after the incident and pleaded guilty to the murder. It was reported that 120,000 people attended Escobar's funeral.
28 years on from the horrifying incident, Escobar’s tragic death is still felt in the country today and his passing is still marked at matches in Colombia each year.
During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, death threats were sent to midfielder Carlos Sanchez after he received a red card in Colombia’s first match against Japan.
Escobar’s brother, Santiago said: “As a brother who has gone through this, I know what must be going through their [Sanchez’s family’s] heads, and I wouldn’t want anyone to go through that.
“Carlos must be feeling both sad for the mistake he made, and very afraid, and his family too. My brother never received any threats, they just shot him dead in the most cowardly way.”
Colombia failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup in Qatar after finishing sixth in the CONMEBOL qualifiers.
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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