Tue, Jun 26, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Colombia must get stronger despite win, Pekerman says

Reuters, KAZAN, Russia

Colombia’s Radamel Falcao scores against Poland in their FIFA World Cup Group H match in Kazan, Russia, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman on Sunday said his team still needed to get better, despite reviving their World Cup campaign with a 3-0 demolition of Poland at the Kazan Arena in Russia.

Following on from a stunning opening reverse to Japan, the emphatic victory revived memories of the effervescent style of Colombia’s charge to the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago.

With James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero providing the ammunition from midfield, and all-time leading scorer Radamel Falcao opening his World Cup account up front, Colombia dismantled a physical, but limited Poland.

Pekerman knows there is still plenty of work to do, though, with a victory over Senegal in Samara on Thursday necessary to guarantee progress from Group H.

“This victory will make us stronger,” the Argentine told a news conference. “The level of our fitness is improving and today from beginning to end we stayed true to that style, but we’re not going to go crazy. Mentally we’re in a good place, but we need to continue to improve because we are ambitious and we want to continue in this World Cup as we hoped. We are going to go forward with faith.”

Pekerman paid tribute to the legion of yellow-shirted fans who shouted themselves hoarse in support of their team at the Kazan Arena and the many more back home in Colombia.

He also took time to speak in support of defender Carlos Sanchez, whose third-minute red card for a deliberate handball contributed greatly to their 2-1 loss to Japan.

“He has had a very hard time these last few days,” Pekerman said. “We wanted to share this victory with him. I’m expressing it personally, but it’s something all the squad feels.”

In an echo of the murder of Colombia’s Andres Escobar in the wake of his own-goal at the 1994 World Cup, police in the South American nation are investigating death threats made against Sanchez.

“The player was deeply affected by this matter and I think we all understand football really is something else,” Pekerman added. “These things shouldn’t even be said lightly.”

There was concern of a different sort for experienced midfielder Abel Aguilar, who was taken off on a stretcher after half an hour.

“When he lifted his leg [he] felt a bit of pain and so right now we don’t know whether it is serious or not,” Pekerman said. “We will have to wait to see what the doctor says.”

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