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Poland eliminated from World Cup after 3-0 loss to Colombia    

KAZAN Russia (Xinhua) -- Poland have lost any chance to qualify for the knockout phase of World Cup after falling to Colombia 3-0 in their second Group H match here in the Kazan Arena on Sunday.

James Rodriguez, who only played as a second-half substitute in Colombia’s opening match against Japan due to injury, was among the starters and created the first and third goal against Poland on Sunday, by giving well-placed chips to teammates Yerry Mina and Juan Cuadrado.

Veteran striker Radamel Falcao scored Colombia’s second goal in the 70th minute which was also the first World Cup goal for the Colombian captain who missed Brazil 2014 due to injury.

The match had been a must-win for both Colombia and Poland after their shocking defeats in the opening round against Japan and Senegal respectively.

With both sides fighting to score for the chance to survive, the first half was full of stoppages due to collisions, and Colombia suffered a blow when Abel Aguilar was forced off by an injury and Mateus Uribe took his place in the 32nd minute.

The change, if anything, seemed to have further boosted the Colombians’ morale, with Juan Cuadrado making attempts at the goal from the right flank at least twice in the next few minutes, giving the Poles a hard time.

The deadlock was broken in the 40th minute when Mina jumped high and nodded home a well-placed cross from James Rodriguez.

Maciej Rybus almost levelled the score for Poland in the 45th minute but the ball went over the bar.

After switching sides, the Colombians emerged with more intents to attack and a higher passing accuracy while the Polish were desperate to level the score.

Falcao doubled the lead for the South American side in the 70th minute by blasting a low shot into the net past the diving Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

Just five minutes later, Juan Cuadrado, after meeting a pass from Rodriguez, slotted the ball into the net calmly and sealed the victory for Colombia.

“I think our players really played their best until the very end of the game, but we lost against a very strong team and this is what we have to accept,” said Poland coach Adam Nawalka at a post-match press conference.

“We used the maximum potential that was available. We played in the offensive setting, then we switched to the four defenders formation, we introduced the second striker. Unfortunately, it was not enough,” the coach said, adding that he took responsibility for the loss.

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said that both teams had been playing with the pressure to win after their defeat in the opening round.

“Our team played as a unit and the football emerged from this unity. It led to the goals and now we have a good position in this World Cup,” the 68-year-old veteran coach said.

He added that his players had been learning from the past defeat and had grown a lot. “My players are self-critical, they are competitive, they are ambitious. They can overcome the lows and they give us hope,” he said.

This was the first encounter of Poland and Colombia in a World Cup tournament. According to FIFA, Poland is ranked 8th in the world, while Colombia is ranked the 16th.

As Japan and Senegal drew 2-2 in the other Group H match earlier on Sunday, the two sides tie on four points while Colombia have three and Poland are sent packing after two losses.

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UPDATES:

Colombia coach dedicates team’s victory to Sanchez

KAZAN Russia (Xinhua) -- Colombia coach Jose Pekerman dedicated his team’s 3-0 victory over Poland on Sunday to midfielder Carlos Sanchez, who was sent off in their opening match against Japan and received a death threat.

“This victory is dedicated to Carlos Sanchez, who has had a hard time over the past few days. I want to share this victory with him, and this is something all our players feel,” said the 68-year-old.

Colombia had fallen to a 2-1 defeat against Japan in their opening game, with Sanchez expelled for a deliberate handball just three minutes into the match.

Authorities in Colombia said later that they were investigating a death threat made against Sanchez on social media together with an image of former player Andres Escobar, who was shot and killed days after scoring a own goal and causing Colombia to lose a key game at the 1994 World Cup.

Pekerman said the troubled midfielder was deeply affected by the matter.

Sanchez was suspended for Sunday’s game against Poland but may be in line to appear in his side’s decisive final group match against Senegal.

Pekerman said he was confident his team would have what it takes to beat the African team.

“My players are self-critical, they are competitive, they are ambitious. They can overcome the lows and they give us hope,” said the Argentine coach.

After Japan and Senegal played out a 2-2 draw in the other Group H match on Sunday, the two sides are level on four points. Colombia have three points, with Poland already eliminated after zero points from their two defeats.

Colombia will play Senegal in their last group match on June 28, while Japan take on Poland. 

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Comment: Falcao lives his World Cup dream as Colombia sparkle

By Sportswriter Michael Place KAZAN Russia (Xinhua) -- Maybe Colombia supporters knew what was coming as they cheerily sang and danced to the rhythm of a Latin-flavored marching band outside Kazan Arena before kickoff.

That salsa-infused revelry was soon on display by fans inside the stadium as Colombia put their World Cup campaign back on track with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Poland on Sunday.

It was nothing less than Colombia needed after a 2-1 loss to Japan in their opening match of the tournament.

By no means have the Cafeteros secured a place in the round of 16; they will likely need to win their final group match against Senegal on Thursday to do that.

But suddenly Colombia resemble the effervescent side that reached the quarterfinals in Brazil four years ago. And perhaps even a little more.

It must be said that Poland provided feeble opposition. It was revealing to hear their talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski, who cut a forlorn figure throughout the game, tell Polish TV afterwards that “fighting is not enough to win World Cup matches when you don’t have quality.”

Even so, there is plenty for Colombia coach Jose Pekerman to be pleased about.

For a start, James Rodriguez showed that he is no longer troubled by a calf problem that forced him to begin the match against Japan on the bench.

The Bayern Munich playmaker, who won the Golden Boot at the last World Cup, was at his best here, laying off two sublime assists and providing the midfield drive that was lacking in the tournament opener.

Juan Cuadrado, benched early against Japan in a sacrificial move after Carlos Sanchez was sent off, also showed his worth. The Juventus winger’s presence along the right flank posed a constant threat to Poland’s defence and he was rewarded for his efforts by scoring Colombia’s third goal.

Juan Quintero, considered lucky by some to have been included in Pekerman’s squad, continued to vindicate the coach’s faith in him. The River Plate midfielder followed up his impressive outing against the Blue Samurai with another influential performance in an advanced playmaking role alongside Rodriguez. His through pass that set up Radamel Falcao for Colombia’s second goal was of the highest quality.

Which brings us to Falcao. The Monaco striker’s cool finish was his first World Cup goal and the emotion-charged celebration that followed - as he looked skyward before being mobbed by teammates - showed just how much it meant to him. Falcao cruelly missed the 2014 World Cup because of a serious knee injury and even Poland fans could not have begrudged him his moment here.

Throughout the second-half, television cameras repeatedly panned to former Colombia stars Carlos Valderrama and Rene Higuita, all high-fives and hugs in the stands.

One senses that after a slow start here, the feel-good story of the 2014 World Cup is about to acquire a new chapter.

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Poland fans cheer for team’s upcoming gam

KAZAN, Russia Russia (Xinhua) -- Dozens of Polish football fans gathered in downtown Kazan Sunday afternoon, singing and drumming to cheer for their national team’s upcoming game against Colombia later in the day.

“We are making the atmosphere warmer. It’s (already) warm here, but with this (drumming and singing), it’s even warmer,” said Bawel, one of the cheering fans.

36-year-old Bawel came to Russia for his first World Cup. “I’m not a very big football fan, but when there is a big event, when the Polish team are playing, I’d like to join, to enjoy the whole atmosphere,” he said.

Poland, ranked the 8th in the world, suffered a shock defeat against Senegal in their opening group match with an own goal earlier this week.

Bawel, like many other Polish fans, was disappointed at the loss, but believes that his team will achieve a victory in the next match and make it to the knockout phase.

“In last game, the guys were slipping a little bit. It was one of the worst games, and I’m not the only one saying that. But maybe there is a chance now to show we are better,” said Bawel.

“Now we have equal chance with Colombia, either we lose or they lose today. It’s a very important match for both of the two teams. But of course we are going to win,” he added.

“Look at this (cheering crowd). We are supporting our team, we are having fun. I hope they (the team) will also be having fun playing. They are putting a lot to it and will do better,” he said.

He added that he has already bought the tickets of the round of 16 and the quarterfinals to follow his team.

Bawel, coming to Russia for the first time, also said he is enjoying his trip here very much. He opened his trip in Saint Petersburg, and then went to Moscow to watch the game against Senegal before coming to Kazan.

“Moscow is a very metropolitan city, a huge city. I really enjoyed it. I didn’t expect I would like it so much,” he said.

Poland will play Colombia in their second group match Sunday night.

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