THIS was the first time Colombia had played in a World Cup match since 1998.

They made it look as if they do this sort of thing all the time, picking Greece apart with free-flowing football and an abundance of attacking talent. This is a team that has lost its big gun, Radamel Falcao, to injury but still the Europeans were shot to pieces.

Greece had spoken of an intention to park the bus. Within five minutes, their South American opponents had already tanned its windows; Colombia left-back Pablo Amero scoring with a deflected shot. Striker Teofilo Gutierrez caused further damage after the break, stabbing the ball into the net from a corner after 58 minutes, and midfielder James Rodriguez added a third goal in the final minute of added time.

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The curtain was raised on Group C in Belo Horizonte's Estadio Mineirao. The stadium quickly became a stage for the Colombians as they attacked both their group rivals and the suggestion that they will struggle without Falcao.

"Greece are a defensive team, very strong but we have been very consistent and very patient and we were able to find our way towards goal," said Rodriguez, a clubmate of Falcao at Monaco. "It is very early to say who is the favourite in the group. We are a strong team but the next two matches will be very difficult as well."

His side will approach each of them with a swagger, although there were moments yesterday when they almost missed their step. Veteran striker Fanis Gekas was careless enough to send a header on to the crossbar when allowed room inside the penalty area not long after Colombia scored their second, while Vassilis Torosidis also put a header just wide. Panagiotis Kone watched as his shot was well saved and Giorgos Samaras then struck just wide of a post late in the second half.

The bus will likely be parked again in their next match - against Japan on Thursday - but the Greeks showed too that they are at times willing to let the handbrake off.

Fulham's Kostas Mitroglou was also given a brief opportunity to stake a claim for a starting place this week when he came off the bench after the break, but was unable to conjure a goal during an eager cameo. "The first five, 10 minutes we had some difficulties. We were not focused enough," said Fernando Santos, the Greece head coach. "After the [first] goal we controlled the game and could have got a draw."

Such optimism was easier to hear once the crowds had dispersed from the stadium, with the Colombian contingent adding to a vibrant, carnival atmosphere. They had been left waiting for 16 years to witness their national team back on this stage and seemed intent to make the most of it.

That joy reached fever pitch after just five minutes when Amero got the ball rolling into the net before taking off to perform an ad hoc dance routine in front of his side's supporters. That his team-mates also joined in transformed the celebration into a World Cup flash mob, a moment likely to feature on highlight reels of this tournament.

Greece could not find their own rhythm and instead continued their dismal record of having never kept a clean sheet at a World Cup finals. They have never gone beyond the group stage either, so must now revive their aspirations against Japan and then Ivory Coast.

For 90 minutes any intention of progress was doused by Colombia - with Gutierrez's goal coming from a simple corner and a flick on and Rodriguez sliding in a third in injury time. They may have been absent for a while, but at times it was as though Colombia have never been away.