The sign said it all: “Pasión sin frontera.”
Translated from Spanish, it means “passion without borders,” and it explains what drew 15,102 fans to Marlins Park on Wednesday night for a soccer game between two top professional clubs — Atletico Nacional, the reigning champions of Colombia, and AS Monaco, the runners-up in France’s first division.
Monaco defeated Nacional, 4-2, on Wednesday, disappointing — but not silencing — the heavily pro-Colombian crowd.
The game was part of the second annual Copa EuroAmericana, which gives one point to the continent that wins each match. Last year, Europe won 6-2.
After Monaco’s win on Wednesday, Europe leads the 2014 nine-match tournament 2-0 over the Americas, which includes a team from Mexico and the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer.
This was the second soccer match played at Marlins Park. The first was Nigeria’s 3-1 win over Venezuela in a friendly on Nov. 14, 2012. Another Marlins Park soccer game is planned for Sept. 11, when Barcelona and Real Madrid “Legends of the Game” will compete in an old-timers exhibition.
Wednesday’s game, due to the absences of Colombian natives James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao, lacked the star power it was expected to have when the game was scheduled.
Rodriguez, a midfielder, emerged as an international star over the past several weeks, leading all scorers in the World Cup with six goals and helping Colombia to its first-ever quarterfinal.
But Rodriguez, 23, signed this week with Real Madrid, joining World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal on the reigning Champions League winner.
Falcao, 28, who is still a part of AS Monaco, missed the game because he is recovering from January knee surgery. However, when Falcao, who was on the sidelines, was shown on the giant screen, fans cheered loudly.
The absence of James and Falcao seemed to be of little concern to the Nacional fans, who came out en masse to support “ La Verdolaga” — The Big Green.
“I’m here to support my team,” Nacional fan John Aguirre said. “It doesn’t matter that [James and Falcao] are not here.”
Aguirre was part of a rocking support system for Nacional. Even in defeat, many of the green-and-white-clad fans stood and sang the entire game, banging on drums and showing uncompromising enthusiasm.
Nacional fans unfurled huge banners that announced their fan clubs in various U.S. cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Tampa and Miami.
Aside from Nacional fans, there was also a substantial number of supporters wearing the jersey of the Colombian national team. Still others, such as Diana Barrios, wore James shirts.
“I’m proud because a team from my country is playing,” Barrios said. “[Colombia] had a great World Cup. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Colombia play in that manner.”
On Wednesday, though, it was the French side that dominated.
Monaco opened the scoring in the sixth minute on a goal by forward Anthony Martial, who took a back pass from forward Valere Germain and beat Nacional goalie Luis Enrique Martinez to the right corner.
Nacional had a chance in the 10th minute, but Edwin Cardona’s shot from the right corner was blocked by Monaco goalie Danijel Subasic.
Monaco made it 2-0 in the 16th minute when forward Dimitar Berbatov pounced on a rebound and booted it past Martinez from close range.
Most of the work on that goal was done by defender Layvin Kurzawa, who made a brilliant run from the left side, avoiding a couple of fierce tackles before crossing the ball.
Monaco took a 3-0 lead in the 39th minute on a goal by Fabinho. The assist came from midfielder Nabil Dirar, who also fought off a tackle.
Nacional, which nearly scored in the 55th minute when Cardona booted the ball off the right post, finally broke through eight minutes later on second-half substitute Santiago Trellez’s goal. Orlando Berrio had the assist, crossing the ball from left to right and just out of the reach of a diving Subasic.
In the 88th minute, Nacional made it 3-2 on a goal by Sebastian Perez, who chipped it to the left corner.
But Monaco put the game away with a goal in stoppage time by Yannick Carrasco.
Fabinho, who scored Monaco’s third goal, said the team misses James.
“He’s a high-quality player,” Fabinho said. “Maybe we have to look for another player, but we have been playing pretty well without [James].”