Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - Page 19 News List

WORLD CUP: Colombia trounce Japan to finish top

GOLDEN OLDIE:Faryd Mondragon came on for the final five minutes, allowing the veteran goalkeeper to make his mark as the oldest man to play in a World Cup

Reuters, CUIABA, Brazil

Colombia’s Jackson Martinez, left, scores against Japan in their FIFA World Cup Group C match at Arena Pantanal in Cuiaba, Brazil, on Tuesday.

Photo: EPA

Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez set up Jackson Martinez for two goals and scored one himself as they thrashed Japan 4-1 to claim top spot in Group C on Tuesday and set up a mouthwatering second-round clash with Uruguay.

Colombia, who are in the round-of-16 for the first time since 1990 and had never before won three matches at the finals, went ahead with an early Juan Cuadrado penalty at the Arena Pantanal.

Martinez struck twice in the second half from passes by halftime substitute Rodriguez and Colombia could even afford to bring on 43-year-old backup goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, who became the oldest player to take the field at a World Cup.

Rodriguez, one of eight players rested from the starting lineup by coach Jose Pekerman after the 2-1 win over Ivory Coast that secured Colombia’s second-round berth, wrapped up the win with a delightful fourth goal.

“I think what James has done today simply demonstrates what we expected from him. From the beginning he has shown he is very well physically and very fit, and we can expect a lot from him,” Pekerman told reporters.

Japan equalized just before halftime with Shinji Okazaki’s fine diving header, but fell apart near the end of the match.

“It was a difficult first half, we had lots of opportunities to score, but found that their strong defense did a lot of damage,” Martinez said.

“In the second half, we were a lot better and were able to show the kind of play we had in previous games,” added Martinez, playing in place of Teofilo Gutierrez.

Japan suffered their worst defeat at a World Cup since they lost by the same score against Brazil in 2006 in Germany, but still contributed to an entertaining and exciting last match in Cuiaba.

Colombia took the lead after 17 minutes when Adrian Ramos was brought down by centerback Yasuyuki Konno as he raced into the penalty area on the left and Cuadrado calmly converted from the spot.

Japan got a brilliant and well-deserved equalizer on the stroke of halftime after enjoying more of the possession in the first half and constantly probing Colombia’s reserve central defensive pairing of Carlos Valdes and Eder Alvarez Balanta.

Keisuke Honda sent a low, left-footed cross in from the right corner of the area and Okazaki got in front of Valdes to steer a diving header past goalkeeper David Ospina just inside the near post.

With Colombia’s main marksman Radamel Falcao missing the tournament through injury and Teofilo Gutierrez rested, Martinez underlined Colombia’s depth of striking talent when he put them ahead again 10 minutes into the second half.

Rightback Santiago Arias cut inside and passed to Rodriguez, who laid the ball off to his left from where Martinez shot home across the diving Eiji Kawashima.

With Rodriguez dictating the pace of Colombia’s counterattacks, Martinez scored his second eight minutes from time as Japan threw bodies forward looking for an equalizer.

Rodriguez, fed by Martinez, then scored with a darting run and chip over Kawashima to complete the rout with his third goal of the tournament in the dying minutes.

Asked about facing Uruguay, Martinez said: “It’s going to be a really tough game, a fight, and we just have to maintain our focus and continue to work like we have.”

Japan should have scored a second equalizer in the 66th minute, but striker Yoshito Okubo blasted rightback Atsuto Uchida’s cross over the bar from right in front of goal with Ospina at his mercy.

This story has been viewed 1794 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top