|Colombia’s Juan Quintero celebrates
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 on Thursday 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, 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 at a news conference.
Hordes of travelling Colombia fans transformed the giant arena in the Brazilian capital into a sea of yellow and gave a rousing rendition of the national anthem before kickoff.
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 talisman Drogba replaced the ineffectual Wilfried Bony a minute later to a rapturous reception from both sets of fans but was at fault for the opening goal.
Colombia: David Ospina; Mario Yepes, Cristian Zapata, Pablo Armero (Santiago Arias, 72); Juan Zuniga, Abel Aguilar (Alexander Mejia, 79), James Rodriguez, Carlos Sanchez, Juan Cuadrado, Victor Ibarbo (Juan Quintero, 53); Teofilo Gutierrez
Ivory Coast: Boubacar Barry; Serge Aurier, Souleyman Bamba, Arthur Boka, Didier Zokora; Cheick Tiote, Yaya Toure, Serey Die (Mathis Bolly, 73), Max Gradel (Salomon Kalou, 67); Gervinho, Wilfried Bony (Didier Drogba, 60)
Man of the Match: James Rodriguez
Referee: Howard Webb (England)