Wednesday 18 July 2018

Colombia fretting over James' fitness

Senegal 0 Colombia 1

James Rodriguez leaves the football pitch due to an injury as he is comforted by Colombia coach Jose Pekerman (R). Photo: AFP/Getty Images
James Rodriguez leaves the football pitch due to an injury as he is comforted by Colombia coach Jose Pekerman (R). Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Jim White

Serenaded by a joyous cacophony from their yellow-shirted army of supporters, Colombia advanced to the last 16 with this victory over Senegal.

The Africans, meanwhile, were evicted when, after matching Japan in terms of points, goal difference and goals scored, their inferior disciplinary record undermined them.

The Colombians, however, advance into the knockout stage with a huge question mark over their most significant player: James Rodriguez limping out of the game after just half an hour.

"I am extremely concerned," said Jose Pekerman, the Colombia coach. "It is a tough situation for my team. It is a topic that could overshadow everything else. But right now I don't know where he stands, to be honest."

There must have been 30,000 Colombians in the Samara Arena, filling the place with an incessant Latin American rhythm. Their racket reached a crescendo when they took the decisive lead in the 74th minute when Yerry Mina powered in a header from a corner.

It provoked probably the most embarrassing choreographed celebration since Brazil's rocking babies, involving some synchronised swaying down by the corner flag.

Juan Cuadrado breaks through a challenge from Senegal's Salif Sane. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Juan Cuadrado breaks through a challenge from Senegal's Salif Sane. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

But it was not the way they mark a goal that will have stuck in the mind of their next opposing manager, Gareth Southgate.

It was the way Senegal controlled the pace and flow of the game in the first half. Here was clear indication that the Colombians are anything but unbeatable.

The way Aliou Cisse's side harried was a pointer to what their next opposing team might do. It made matters worse when Rodriguez limped off straight down the tunnel after a flare-up of the calf problem that had constricted his contribution during the defeat by Japan.

Indeed, Senegal could have taken the lead soon after when the referee awarded them a penalty after Saido Mane went down under a challenge from Davinson Sanchez.

A powerful header from Colombia's Yerry Mina hits the back of Khadim N'Diaye's net. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A powerful header from Colombia's Yerry Mina hits the back of Khadim N'Diaye's net. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

But, after being advised by his earpiece to check the video replay, where it was obvious that Sanchez had got his heel to the ball, Mr Mazic over-ruled himself. No foul, just a superb intervention.

But Pekerman's side did not allow the departure of their talisman to generate defeatism. Aware that a draw could jeopardise their further progress if Japan maintained parity with Poland, in the second half they really went for it. And they got reward, when, for the second game in succession, Mina, the Barcelona reserve centre back, got his head to Juan Quintero's beautifully flighted corner. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Yerry Mina (rear R) celebrates with teammates after scoring Colombia's winning goal. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Yerry Mina (rear R) celebrates with teammates after scoring Colombia's winning goal. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The Senegal players acknowledge their fans at the end of the game after exiting this year's World Cup. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
The Senegal players acknowledge their fans at the end of the game after exiting this year's World Cup. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Telegraph.co.uk

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