On this day: Andres Escobar murdered in wake of World Cup own goal

Colombian defender Andres Escobar scores an own goal at the World Cup on June 22, 1994.
© Getty Images
Twenty years ago today, Colombia defender Andres Escobar was murdered following the own goal that he scored at the 1994 World Cup.

When Colombia supporters descend upon the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza on Friday evening for their nation's World Cup quarter-final against hosts Brazil, many will do so with a photograph of Andres Escobar about their person.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Colombian defender's murder - an act committed for what many believe was the simple fact that he had scored an own goal in a match that saw his nation eliminated from USA '94.

Going into the tournament, Colombia, who had thrashed Argentina 5-0 during qualification, were among the favourites to go all the way. In fact, Brazilian legend Pele insisted that they were the best team at the tournament.

Yet, Colombia's 'Golden Generation', with players such as Escobar, Carlos Valderrama, Faustino Asprilla, Rene Higuita and Freddy Rincon, was shrouded in controversy. The illegal narcotics industry was rife in the South American country, with drug lords and gangsters believed to have placed big bets on Colombia triumphing in the States.

Speaking before the tournament, captain Escobar, who was about to sign for AC Milan, said: "We are all working for a common cause – to make our country proud. We're trying to not focus on the violence. I find motivation in the good things to come. I try to read a bit of the Bible each day. My bookmarks are two photos. One of my late mother, the other of my fiancee."

The threats that followed the surprise 3-1 group opening defeat to Romania were impossible to ignore, though. The brother of defender Chonta Herrera was killed in a suspicious accident, while it was reported that the whole squad received death threats from back home via the television sets in their hotel rooms. "Someone programmed the hotel's TVs - it freaked us out," said coach Francisco Maturana.

Nevertheless, Colombia dominated the opening exchanges of their second encounter against the hosting Americans. However, in the 35th minute, Escobar stretched to cut out a cross from John Harkes, only to divert the ball into his own net in the process. It was an error that would later cost the centre-back his life.

Earnie Stewart doubled the USA's lead, with Adolfo Valencia scoring a late consolation and although Colombia overcame Switzerland in the final group fixture, the defeat to the home side had ultimately ended their stint at the competition.

Upon their return home, the Colombian squad were urged to keep a low profile. Escobar, though, decided to show his face in his home town of Medellin. Back on this day in 1994, Escobar visited the El Indio Bar with some friends, where he was taunted by a gang for the own goal that he scored. An argument broke out, which ended with the footballer being shot 12 times. He was rushed to hospital, but died 45 minutes after his arrival.

Humberto Castro Munoz was later arrested and confessed to his murder, for which he was sentenced to 43 years in prison, only to be released in 2005 after just 11 years behind bars.

Colombia's Radamel Falcao celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Belgium during an international friendly match on November 14, 2013
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