By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Colombia are close to qualifying for the knock-out stages of the FIFA World Cup after defeating Ivory Coast 2-1 at the Estádio Mané Garrincha this afternoon (June 19th). Supported by the vast majority of the crowd, two goals in quick succession midway through the second half helped the South Americans record their second straight victory in the tournament, after their 3-0 win over Greece last week.
A header from James Rodriguez and a strike from Juan Quintero were enough to take all three points. Gervinho pulled one back for the Africans, but, despite applying pressure late on, could not find an equalizer as their group campaign now goes down to the wire.
If Japan fail to beat Greece tonight Colombia’s progress will be confirmed. The two meet at 7PM in Cuiabá.
As the game kicked off, Colombia’s attacking pair of Cuadrado and Téofilo Gutierrez shot out of the blocks. Cuadrado was in particularly scintillating form, terrorizing the right flank in search of the opening goal.
Within the opening fifteen minutes Colombia had already carved out three goalscoring opportunities. Gutierrez missed the best chance of the half, volleying wide when unmarked in the middle of the penalty area.
With Didier Drogba again on the bench for Ivory Coast, Gervinho and Salomon Kalou tried to ignite the attack. Yaya Touré, playing just behind, came more into the game as the first half wore on. Yet in the second half it was Colombia who took the lead on 63 minutes.
Cuadrado whipped in a corner and James Rodriguez rose highest to head the South Americans in front. With Drogba on, Ivory Coast immediately went in search of the leveler, but they were hit by a sucker punch on the counter-attack.
Serey Die lost the ball to Gutierrez, who supplied Quintero, on as a second half substitute, to double Colombia’s advantage with just over twenty minutes remaining. Gervinho scored with an individual effort on 73 minutes to set Colombian nerves jangling.
In the final minutes the Ivorians pressed, with Drogba foiled at the last by Ospina in the Colombian goal to secure the victory.
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