Colombia qualify for WC14 last 16

Jun 20, 2014 - 3:18 AM Colombia qualified for the final 16 of the World Cup courtesy of a scoreless draw between Japan and Greece after the South Americans defeated Ivory Coast 2-1 in Group C on Thursday.

The victory over the Africans gave Colombia a maximum six points from their opening two matches and their passage to the knockout stages was guaranteed soon after by the Greece and Japan stalemate.

In the day's opening match, Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez produced a superb performance against Ivory Coast.

Rodriguez scored his second goal of the tournament and fed substitute Juan Fernando Quintero for his first international goal, while Gervinho replied with a superb individual effort, his second of the finals, for the African side.

"It was a tough match like all of those at the World Cup," said Rodriguez, who has more than made up for the loss of leading striker and Monaco teammate Radamel Falcao through injury.

"It is terrific to have taken three points off our major rival who are extremely physical and know how to play good football."

Colombia's coach Jose Pekerman said he was delighted with their campaign.

"It gives me great pleasure that we have come through a tough encounter and we have six points from six," said the Argentine, who guided his homeland to the quarter-finals in 2006.

"It is super that Colombia can compete at this level with players competing in their first World Cup finals."

The Colombians should have broken the 0-0 deadlock just before halftime but for a dreadful miskick by Teofilo Gutierez after being beautifully teed up.

Colombia had done an effective job taking Ivory Coast's main creative force Yaya Toure out of the game as Carlos Sanchez followed him everywhere.

Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi had seen enough and sent 36-year-old Didier Drogba on for the ineffective Wilfried Bony hoping he could work his magic.

However, his teammates were looking at him in askance after the smaller Rodriguez managed to beat him and another defender to Cuadrado's corner and head home sparking another terrific Motown style Colombian goal celebration.

There was another excuse for more of that in the 70th minute as Rodriguez dispossessed Die inside his own half and fed Juan Fernando Quintero who ran into the penalty area and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.

The Ivorians, though, were far from down and out as the match really came to life and Gervinho gave the African side real hope when he scored a superb individual goal, but Colombia hung on for the win.

Ivory Coast are still firmly in the hunt for a place in the last 16 for the first time in three appearances. They opened the tournament with a 2-1 win against Japan and a win against Greece in their final group game will see them through.

Source: AAP

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