World Cup Group C came to an end with Colombia and Greece the two nations heading into the last 16. A brace from Jackson Martínez led Colombia to a 4-1 victory over Japan in Pantanal. A third victory for Colombia in as many games has the South American nation moving into the knockout stage in first place. It means the Los Cafeteros will meet Uruguay, which came through Group D.
Uruguay is expected to face Colombia without key striker Luis Suárez who appeared to bite Giorgio Chiellini in his side’s 1-0 win over Italy. Although the referee took no action at the time, soccer’s governing body FIFA has confirmed it is looking into the incident. Suárez, who has bitten players while playing for club teams Ajax and Liverpool, could face a lengthy ban if he is found guilty of biting a fellow player at the World Cup.
World Cup Group C was seen as the easiest and less sexy of the groups, yet it yielded some interesting results. Japan started its last World Cup Group C match quite aggressively and Shinji Kagawa was guilty of missing two decent opportunities in the first 10 minutes. However, Colombia scored the opener in the 17th minute after Japan midfielder Yasuyuki Konno was judged to have pulled down Adrián Ramos in the box. Juan Cuadrado, who has been one of Colombia’s best players in the tournament so far, coolly slotted the ball past Elji Kawashima.
Japan suddenly came back to life and just under 10 minutes later, Toshihiro Aoyama set up Kagawa but the Manchester United man could only find Colombian goalkeeper, David Ospina. In the 33rd minute, Keisuke Honda could only curl his free-kick past the post.
During first-half stoppage time, Honda’s cross found Shinji Okazaki who headed into the far corner. On the balance of play, Japan looked like it could sneak through, but the Asian nation was also relying on the Greece v Côte d’Ivoire result to go its way.
However, the Colombians went 2-1 in 10 minutes after the re-start when James Rodríguez picked out Martínez, who fired into the corner. Colombia then increased its lead to 3-1 in the 82nd minute as Rodríguez again played in Martínez who netted with consummate ease. The game was then killed off in the 90th minute when Rodríguez flicked the ball over Kawashima.
Meanwhile in Fortaleza, an injury time penalty by Georgios Samaras gave Greece a 2-1 over Didier Drogba’s Côte d’Ivoire. The Greeks had failed to score in any previous World Cup finals. The Africans had a chance to take the lead in the 10th minute when Drogba flicked onto Gervinho, but the latter’s shot was blocked.
In the 33rd minute, good work by Samaras set up José Cholevas but his shot cannoned off goalkeeper Boubacar Barry and onto the bar. Then, just three minutes before the break, Ismael Tiote’s pass was intercepted by Samaras and played forward to substitute forward Andreas Samaris, who dinked the ball over Barry to make it 1-0.
Both sides continued to attack in the second-half and in the 59th minute, Dimitrios Salpingidis saw his powerful shot turned over the bar by Barry. Then, in the 74th minute, Gervinho set up Wilfried Bony to make it 1-1. Samaras then scored the winner. Colombia and Greece go through from World Cup Group C.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd