Radamel Falcao’s first World Cup goal led Colombia to a 3-0 victory over Poland on Sunday (Monday NZT) and kept the team in the running for a spot in the knockout round.
Falcao had been expected to lead the team at the last World Cup in Brazil, but he injured his knee ahead of the tournament and missed Colombia’s run to the quarterfinals.
Healthy again, the Monaco striker scored with the outside of his foot in the 70th minute after a superb pass from playmaker Juan Quintero in the back of the defence.
After two losses, Poland have been eliminated.
Yerry Mina scored the first goal in the 40th and Juan Cuadrado completed the win in the 75th.
Both teams lost their Group H openers and knew another loss would end their hopes of advancing. Colombia will next face Senegal on Thursday (Friday NZT) in Samara with a chance to win the group, while Poland will play Japan in Volgograd.
Senegal and Japan drew 2-2 earlier and lead the group with four points each.
Mina out-jumped the Poland defense to head in the opening goal from James Rodriguez’s cross, rewarding a spell of domination by the Colombians.
Rodriguez’s through ball after Poland lost possession in midfield led to the final goal. Cuadrado collected the pass and rushed toward the box, timing his shot perfectly to beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Poland got off to an aggressive start in the hot and humid Tatarstan capital, pressing high and winning most of the duels in the opening minutes.
Colombia gradually settled in, though, with Quintero providing attacking width and Cuadrado proving dangerous with his subtle moves on the edge of the box.
Colombia slowed the pace in the second half, showing good counterattacking qualities. Quintero came close in the 56th minute on the break, but his goal-bound shot took a deflection.
Cut off from the rest of his teammates, Robert Lewandowski had a few attempts but could not convert his rare chances.
Colombia is still alive ahead of its final match against Senegal and can still win the group, while Poland can only hurt Japan’s chances of advancement.
KEY TO SUCCESSES
Given his first start after fully recovering from a calf injury, Rodriguez lived up to expectations. He pressed relentlessly, tracked back and delivered an assist for Mina.
Rodriguez has now been directly involved in nine goals in seven World Cup appearances for Colombia, scoring six and assisting on three.
Besides scoring, Mina was also excellent in containing Lewandowski throughout the match.