BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Starved of the World Cup action for 16 years, Colombia is certainly making the most of being back on football’s biggest stage.
Driven on by a partisan pro-Colombian crowd that turned the Estadio Nacional into a sea of yellow, the South Americans scored through James Rodriguez and substitute Juan Quintero in a devastating six-minute spell in the second half to beat Ivory Coast 2-1 on Thursday.
A second victory in Group C, following a 3-0 win over Greece, leaves Colombia on the verge of qualifying for a place in the last 16. Since 1998, every team that has earned six points in the group stage has advanced.
“We have had two wins with players who are playing their first World Cup,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. “We’re happy to have defeated such a good opponent. We have a lot of young players, and this is going to help them grow.”
Japan 0, Greece 0
NATAL, Brazil (AP) — Greece promised goals that didn’t come. Japan pressed for a victory that eluded it yet again.
The ultimate result of what has turned out to be a rarity at this World Cup — a 0-0 draw — is that Colombia is guaranteed to move on to the knockout rounds and Greece and Japan are still clinging to life in Group C.
Reduced to 10 men after captain Costas Katsouranis was sent off in the 38th minute with his second booking, Greece held on for a critical result in the group by returning to the rock-solid defense that Colombia had blistered for three goals in an opening loss.
“My players were brilliant,” said Greece coach Fernando Santos. “They worked hard after the red card. Without the red card we probably would have won the game.”
Both teams inserted new strikers in search of goals and a first victory, but ultimately the main objective was survival and both achieved that with one match left in group play. Japan would have been eliminated with a loss.
Once Katsouranis was sent off after a rough challenge on Makoto Hasebe, Greece withdrew into a defensive setup and held firm. Even short-handed, Greece was better organized against Japan and avoided any critical mistakes.