BRASILIA: Colombia moved to the brink of their first appearance in the World Cup knockout round in nearly a quarter of a century when they beat Ivory Coast 2-1 in another action-packed World Cup clash yesterday to take firm control of Group C.
The South Americans, who fell to Cameroon at the last-16 stage in Italy in 1990 with a team featuring the likes of Rene Higuita and Carlos Valderrama, had not qualified for soccer’s global showpiece since 1998.
They were deserved winners in an entertaining encounter in Brasilia and have now won two games at a finals for the first time in five appearances.
After a tight first half the game exploded into life with three goals in nine minutes midway through the second, starting when Colombia’s James Rodriguez beat substitute Didier Drogba to the ball and thumped in a header from a 64th-minute Juan Cuadrado corner.
Juan Quintero ran clear to make it 2-0 after 70 minutes after Rodriguez had robbed Serey Die in midfield but Gervinho cut in through three defenders to score an excellent individual goal three minutes later to halve the deficit.
Colombia held out reasonably comfortably, though, to the delight of thousands of their yellow-clad fans thronging the National Stadium, and top the standings with six points ahead of Ivory Coast on three.
“We have had two wins with players who are playing their first World Cup,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said.
“It’s very positive for us but we can’t get ahead of ourselves,” added the Argentine.
“I’m very happy, this is a united group. We never lack that courage and valour.”
Hordes of travelling Colombia fans transformed the giant arena in the Brazilian capital into a sea of yellow, with only a handful of patches of the orange of Ivory Coast, and gave a rousing rendition of the national anthem before kick-off.
After a cagey opening few minutes, Colombia started to push forward with midfielder Juan Cuadrado at the heart of their attacks.
It was Cuadrado’s ball out to the left that released Rodriguez in the 28th minute but his fine cross was scuffed wide by striker Teofilo Gutierrez unmarked in front of goal.
Ivory Coast had their first genuine chance three minutes later when lively fullback Serge Aurier cut inside his marker and his low shot forced a good save from Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina. REUTERS