Colombia took control of World Cup Group C with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast in Brasilia on Thursday.
The South American side carried a threat all game, and James Rodriguez scored one and created the other as Ivory Coast were found wanting.
Gervinho set up a grandstand finish when reducing the deficit, but Colombia held on to move on to six points from two games.
The pattern of play was set early, with Colombia enjoying plenty of possession and probing for openings.
The first chance fell to Teofilo Gutierrez when a loose ball bounced his way, but he snatched at the chance from 20 yards out and fired well wide.
Twice in quick succession before the quarter-hour mark, Colombia crafted and promptly wasted good chances. Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado took up good positions to deliver crosses into the box, but on both occasions they failed to find their intended targets.
Colombia's pace on the break was extremely impressive. Cuadrado in particular showed a clean pair of heels to his rivals on more than one occasion, and it took an excellent last-ditch clearance from Didier Zokora to avert the danger.
It took 25 minutes for Ivory Coast to fashion a chance. Space opened up for Cheick Tiote, but he lashed his shot high over the bar.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman preferred Gutierrez to Porto sharpshooter Jackson Martinez in attack. It looked like a bad decision on 28 minutes as the forward missed a sitter.
A great cross by Rodriguez picked out Gutierrez seven yards from goal. He had time and space but got his volley all wrong, and his effort went horribly wide.
Teofilo Gutierrez is a ridiculously talented player but maybe the most notorious misser of big chances I've ever seen.— Cristian Nyari (@Cnyari) June 19, 2014
Ivory Coast gradually worked their way into the contest, and Serge Aurier forced a decent low save out of David Ospina.
Yaya Toure, who looked laboured in the opening 45 minutes, had two sighters from free-kicks early in the second half, but he wasted them both.
Although he continued to look restricted in his movement, Toure is still a top-class operator. He demonstrated that on 57 minutes with a delicious clipped ball with the outside of his right foot that took out two defenders and picked out Wilfried Bony in the box.
Bony approached the chance like a player short on confidence, as he got in an awful position and kicked only thin air when attempting an acrobatic volley.
Although Ivory Coast found a foothold in the second half, Colombia still carried a threat. Cuadrado tricked his way past his marker and fired a fierce shot that keeper Boubacar Barry tipped into the bar.
Asked Roberto Martinez to name a player who'd shine at the World Cup and he said Cuadrado. Doesn't look a bad shout.— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) June 19, 2014
On 64 minutes, Ivory Coast gave away a needless corner, and they were made to pay a heavy price, as Rodriguez got above his marker and powered a header beyond Barry.
Ivory Coast only had themselves to blame for the killer second goal. A terrible attacking corner put them on the back foot, and Serey Die was robbed of possession by Rodriguez, who slipped in substitute Juan Quintero for the finish.
To Ivory Coast's credit, they produced a rapid response. To be more precise, Gervinho found a rapid response on 73 minutes with a brilliant individual goal.
The former Arsenal man picked up the ball on the left and went on a slaloming run before firing a shot that beat Ospina at his near post.
Colombia held on for the win and with one game to play are virtually guaranteed a place in the second round. Their place could be confirmed depending on the result of the Japan vs. Greece game later Thursday.
For Ivory Coast, they can still qualify, but they will in all probability require a win over Greece to book their passage.
|Player||1st Half Rating||2nd Half Rating|
|Player||1st Half Rating||2nd Half Rating|
Rodriguez was named Man of the Match, and the midfielder was delighted with his performance:
This game was tougher than our previous one, because Ivory Coast have better players [than Greece] and are physically stronger. That's why these three points feel harder earned.
Of course I love scoring, but the most important thing is to do my bit for the team, be it by providing assists or scoring goals.