BRASILIA, Brazil — Starved of the World Cup action for 16 years, Colombia — and its fanatical traveling supporters — are certainly making the most of being back on soccer’s biggest stage.
Driven on by a partisan pro-Colombian crowd that turned the Estadio Nacional into a sea of yellow, the South Americans scored through James Rodriguez and substitute Juan Quintero in a devastating six-minute spell in the second half to beat Ivory Coast 2-1 on Thursday.
A second victory in Group C, along with Greece’s 0-0 draw with Japan later Thursday, put Colombia in the round of 16.
Since 1998, every team that has earned six points in the group stage has advanced.
“We have had two wins with players who are playing their first World Cup,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. “We’re happy to have defeated such a good opponent. We have a lot of young players, and this is going to help them grow.”
Known for his midfield artistry, playmaker Rodriguez showed his prowess in the air by getting clear of Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba — again only used as a substitute — at a corner to head in Colombia’s opener in the 64th minute, lighting up a disappointing match.
GREECE 0, JAPAN 0: In Natal, Brazil, reduced to 10 men after captain Costas Katsouranis was sent off in the 38th minute with his second booking, Greece held on for a scoreless draw with Japan that keeps both alive in Group C and sends rival Colombia to the next round of the World Cup.
Both teams inserted new strikers in search of goals and a first victory, but ultimately, the goal was survival, and both did that with one match left in group play. Japan would have been eliminated with a loss.
Once Katsouaranis was sent off after a rough challenge on Makoto Hasebe, Greece withdrew into a defensive setup and held firm.
Greece surrendered three goals in a loss to Colombia, but even short-handed was better organized against Japan and avoided any critical mistakes.