World Cup Group H, Kazan Arena – Poland 0 Colombia 3 (Mina 40, Falcao 70, Cuadrado 75)
Colombia produced a stylish display to claim a 3-0 victory that keeps their World Cup hopes alive and eliminates Poland following a crucial Group H clash in Kazan.
Barcelona defender, Yerry Mina snatched the opener when he nodded home James Rodriguez’s sumptuous cross five minutes prior to the break.
Radamel Falcao then doubled the lead with a clinical finish deep into the second half before Juan Cuadrado ran clear to seal the points with a third 15 minutes from time.
Japan’s 2-2 draw with Senegal earlier in the day meant both sides knew they couldn’t afford another defeat, but Poland rarely looked like troubling the South Americans with talisman Robert Lewandowski too often a peripheral figure.
Colombia looked the more inventive with Juan Quintero, Rodriguez and Cuadrado particularly impressive.
Jose Pekerman’s side will now meet Senegal in Samara on Thursday knowing a victory will clinch a place in the last 16. Poland sign off against Japan, who will also progress if they beat the Poles in Volgograd.
Contrasting fortunes for two big-name strikers. Poland may well have been ranked in the top eight coming into this tournament, but in truth they always looked like one of the most vulnerable seeds. Their big hope, Lewandowski had netted 21 times in his previous 15 outings for his country prior to arriving in Russia, but he has been one of the superstars who has failed to shine with very little impact in his first two games. It has taken him so long to get to this world stage, but despite being one of the most deadly marksmen in Europe, he rarely looked like reproducing his club brilliance. Colombia deservedly came out on top and know a victory in their final group game will see them into the last 16. Their night was capped by the sight of Falcao scoring his first ever goal at the tournament, four years after an ACL injury had cruelly robbed him of a place at the finals in Brazil.
England will meet either the runner-up or winner of Group H, and on this evidence Colombia would be the team to avoid should they go on to progress.
MAN OF THE MATCH
James Rodriguez (Colombia). The Tricolor’s talisman returned to the starting line-up and made a hugely significant contribution. Quintero was also sensational, but the Bayern Munich star (on-loan from Real Madrid) just edges it with two sublime assists.
POLAND: Szczesny 6, Pazdan 6, Bednarek 6, Bereszynski 6, Piszczek 6, Goralski 6, Krychowiak 5, Rybus 5, Zielinski 5, Lewandowski 5, Kownacki 5. Subs: Grosicki 6, Teodorczyk 5, Glik n/a.
COLOMBIA: Ospina 7, Arias 7, Mina 7, Mojica 7, Sanchez 7, Barrios 7, Aguilar 6, Rodriguez 9, Cuadrado 8, Quintero 9, Falcao 7. Subs: Uribe 6, Lerma 5, Bacca 5.
40′ – GOAL! Poland 0-1 Colombia. La Tricolor take another short corner on the right. Quintero catches Poland out with a clever pass to James who curves a sublime cross into the middle for Mina to nod home.
59′ – POLAND CHANCE! Lewandowski latches onto a long ball over the top. He seems to be in for his big moment with a great touch but sees his left-foot strike well saved by Ospina.
70′ – GOAL! Poland 0-2 Colombia. Falcao makes it two! The hitman guides an outside of the foot effort beyond the keeper after a sensational through ball from Quintero.
75′ – GOAL! Poland 0-3 Colombia. It’s game over. Cuadrado races clean through courtesy of James’s pass and coolly slots the third into the bottom corner. Pack your bags Poland.
Poland are the first European nation to be eliminated from the 2018 World Cup.
James Rodriguez has been directly involved in 10 goals in seven World Cup appearances for Colombia, scoring six and assisting four.
Across the last two World Cup tournaments (2014 and 2018), no player has scored more goals (6) or provided more assists (4) than James Rodriguez.
There were 14 World Cup goals scored today; the most on a single day of action (maximum three games) since 10th June 1990 (also 14).