A star is born: Teen sensation Hernández strikes twice on debut to down Costa Rica

By Michael Krumholtz October 17, 2018

A dejected Keylor Navas (left) of Costa Rica looks on as Juan Camilo Hernández (centre) puts Colombia ahead in the second half. Photo courtesy of @SelColombia

Years from now there would be no other reason to remember Colombia’s 3-1 victory over Costa Rica if not for a teenager. As expected, Los Cafeteros went untested against an inferior side in Harrison, New Jersey on Tuesday night. But rather unexpectedly, it was 19-year-old Juan Camilo “Cucho” Hernández who completely stole the show in his debut with the senior team.

Colombia took a 1-0 lead in the 30th minute when veteran Carlos Bacca crossed over winger Cristian Gamboa and took advantage of a poor effort from Kendall Waston to help. For much of the night, Costa Rica’s all-world goalkeeper Keylor Navas was left for dead as Los Ticos’ current defense is a shell of what it was in 2014.

A goal from Waston before the end of the first half kept Costa Rica competitive. That was until the wunderkind Hernández entered. Thirty seconds later, with his first ever touch for Colombia’s international squad, Hernández scored a header off a Navas save to give Colombia the 2-1 advantage in the 72nd minute. Like much of the action for Colombia on Tuesday night, it was all thanks to star James Rodríguez pulling the strings and finding clear paths through Costa Rica’s defense. Rodríguez connected on a crisp pass on the left side to Juan Cuadrado, whose initial try was denied by a diving Navas.

You may call Cucho lucky for being at the right place at the right time, but the youngster has already shown over the course of his club career with Spain’s now-first flight club Huesca that he has a knack for finding open space.

Hernández’s night wasn’t done, however, as he would score again in the 92nd minute to end the game. A stolen ball led to a streaking Cuadrado having all the room in the world to glide down his favored right side. When the Juventus star looked like he would stop and go for goal himself, he kicked back the ball into the middle where Hernández was waiting. In a savvy move, the 19-year-old flicked the ball at the last second over Navas, as the Tico keeper was going to the ground to try and make a save.

There are still some uncertainties on the Colombian side at the conclusion of its relatively successful two-game break. Chief among the concerns is the question of who will be the permanent head coach going forward. Rumors again circulated Tuesday that native son Juan Carlos Osorio would depart Paraguay, despite his recent introduction there, in order to coach Colombia starting in November.

Though Colombia’s coaching question lingers, one thing that looks for certain is the talent heading into the future thanks to a dream debut from a teenager thought to be Colombia’s next superstar. As Hernández told Colombian television station Caracol after the match: “This is just the beginning.”

This article originally appeared on Colombia Focus.