By Michael Place MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua)
-- World Cup quarterfinalists in
Brazil four years ago, Colombia have done what was expected of
them by progressing to the knockout stage in Russia.
In fact, a cursory
glance at the final Group H standings might suggest that it has
been a stress-free journey so far; Colombia topped the group
with six points, two more than second-placed Japan.
But the South
American team’s passage to the round of 16 has been far from
plain sailing. The Cafeteros made a disastrous start to their
campaign when midfielder Carlos Sanchez was sent off in the
third minute of their opener against Japan. The Blue Samurai
took advantage of their numerical advantage to win 2-1 in
The result left
Colombia needing two wins from their last two group matches and
that is exactly what they have done; first trouncing Poland 3-0
and then grinding out a 1-0 win over Senegal on Thursday.
But while it was a
mightily impressive display against the Poles, the same cannot
be said of the labored victory over the Lions of Teranga.
Which begs the
question: can Jose Pekerman’s team progress to the last eight
The answer could
depend on the availability of their playmaker James Rodriguez,
whose fitness is the cause of growing concern in Colombia’s
suffered a reoccurrence of a leg muscle problem against Senegal
and was taken off before halftime. His absence was clearly
evident as Colombia struggled to foray forward with fluency
despite the best efforts of Juan Quintero and Juan Cuadrado, the
team’s only other creative midfielders.
As a consequence,
Radamel Falcao struggled for supply and was often drawn deep in
a bid to win the ball.
With only five days
until their next match against England, Colombia will be
sweating on the fitness of their influential No. 10, who won the
Golden Boot four years ago with six goals.
But, even if he does
play, it is doubtful the Bayern Munich star will be anywhere
near fully fit.
squad has a plethora of central defensive midfielders, it is
short on attacking playmakers, meaning there will be a greater
onus on Quintero to deliver.
Which brings us to
the good news for Pekerman and his men. Quintero, who has
struggled with form and fitness in recent seasons, is arguably
enjoying his best run of form in Colombia’s national team.
currently on loan at River Plate from Porto, scored from a
free-kick against Japan and provided a sumptuous assist for
Radamel Falcao against Poland. Most of the team’s best attacking
moves against Senegal came via his prodigious left foot.
Another positive for
Pekerman has been the performances of center-backs Yerry Mina
and Davinson Sanchez.
Mina has endured a
frustrating 2018 after his January move to Barcelona from
Brazil’s Palmeiras. The 23-year-old made only a handful of
starts in his first five months with the Blaugrana and was an
unused substitute for Colombia against Japan.
Recalled to the
starting lineup against Poland, Mina headed in the team’s first
goal and he again found the net by nodding in Colombia’s winner
on Thursday from a corner.
All the while, Mina
has not forgotten his defensive duties as Colombia have kept two
successive clean sheets.
Sanchez has arguably
been even more impressive. The Tottenham player is showing
himself to be a calming influence on his teammates here with his
clever positioning, composure in possession and well-timed
In goal, David
Ospina is proving that a lack of regular playing time at club
level is no barrier to performing well on football’s highest
stage. The Arsenal shot-stopper has not been tested too often in
the past two matches but has done the job when Colombia have
needed him, such as late in Thursday’s match when he denied
M’Baye Niang with a fine reflex save.
One suspects that
Ospina, Sanchez and Mina will need to raise the bar even further
to quell the threat posed by Harry Kane and company on Tuesday.
deserve to qualify, says coach Aliou Cisse
SAMARA Russia (Xinhua) --
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said on Thursday night
that although he was satisfied with his men’s performance,
Senegal didn’t deserve to advance to the World Cup last 16.
Following a 2-1
victory against Poland and a 2-2 draw with Japan, only one point
is needed for the Teranga Lions to advance to the knockout stage
before Thursday’s match against Colombia.
However, Senegal was
defeated by the South American country and eliminated because
they received more yellow cards than Japan.
“Senegal have not
qualified because we did not deserve to qualify,” Cisse told
reporters after the game at the Samara Arena.
“I feel we could
have scored in the first half and I think we controlled the
match quite well. I’m just disappointed for my team, for this
generation and for these players who fight every single day for
our country,” he added.
made the Teranga Lions become the first team that was knocked
out by the fair play rule at the World Cup.
Regarding the way of
elimination, Cisse said they had no choice but accept it.
“Fair Play points
are one of the rules and these rules have been established in
the tournament regulations. We have to respect that. We would
have preferred to be eliminated in another way but that’s the
way it works and we knew that those were the regulations,” he
“I will continue to
encourage them and to be with them because I think we can expect
many more good things from them in the future,” he concluded.
elimination, there will be no African team in the round of 16.
Colombia coach makes rare
team’s qualification for World Cup last 16
SAMARA Russia (Xinhua) --
Despite a victory against Senegal in World Cup
Group H match, Colombia coach Jose Nestor Pekerman made
self-criticism on Thursday, saying his team played a tough game
and couldn’t get the necessary control in central midfield.
With a lone goal
from defender Yerry Mina at the Samara Arena, the South American
country secured a spot in the last 16. Although Senegal launched
fierce attacks during the game and created several chances, the
Teranga Lions couldn’t convert any of them.
“The match was tough
because we couldn’t get the necessary control in central
midfield to enable us to feed the right kind of balls to Falcao,”
Pekerman told reporters on the post-match press conference.
thought “there was a lot of tension in the air today” and “also
some very worrying moments, especially in the first half”.
“Senegal played very
well and it was tough for us to maintain our identity,” he
68-year-old coach praised his team for successful defense, as
Senegal made 8 attempts at the goal throughout the match without
“We managed to
defend successfully though, and they didn’t create many
goal-scoring opportunities,” he said.
James Rodriguez was forced off by injury in the first half. The
Bayern Munich star made no attempts at the goal and only 10
passes for 30 minutes.
With regard to the
midfielder’s condition, Pekerman showed great concerns.
“I’m very worried,”
he said, “I don’t have confirmation or information. We have to
wait. We hope it’s good news after the review (about James
from training before World Cup due to “muscle fatigue”, but the
midfielder played in the matches against Japan and Poland.
After advancing to
the knockout stage, Colombia will face England or Belgium on