Classy Colombia turn on the style to send Poland crashing out of World Cup
Yerry Mina, Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado were all on target
Colombia kept alive their hopes of making the last 16 and knocked Poland out of the World Cup with a terrific 3-0 victory in Kazan.
The 2014 quarter-finalists had been in danger of elimination following an opening loss to Japan, but they produced a brilliant attacking display against the Poles as Yerry Mina, Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado all scored.
Senegal and Japan’s draw means the Colombians are still only third in Group H, but they know victory over the Senegalese on Thursday will seal their progress and set up a last-16 showdown with either England or Belgium.
Colombia’s surprise defeat to Japan had included a sending-off inside three minutes for Carlos Sanchez, but there were few moments of the note in the early exchanges here.
Slowly but surely Colombia began to get hold of the game and Cuadrado did brilliantly in slaloming past two Polish players to reach the byline before producing a shot that Wojciech Szczesny parried behind.
James Rodriguez collected the ball for the subsequent corner and tried to whip the crowd into a frenzy and, although that dead-ball situation came to nothing, another shortly after led to the opener five minutes before the break.
The attacking triumvirate of Rodriguez, Cuadrado and Juan Fernando Quintero were all involved from a short corner and the former was allowed space to deliver a perfect cross from the right that Mina just had to guide beyond an oncoming Szczesny with his head.
Nobody scored more goals across Europe in qualifying than Poland’s Robert Lewandowski, but the Bayern Munich man was being starved of service while their opponents appeared awash with creativity.
At the start of the second half Cuadrado rolled the ball for Falcao to fire over and Quintero had a shot deflected wide, but Colombia’s slender advantage meant Poland still had hope at that point.
A long ball to Lewandowski caught Mina napping and the Polish captain did brilliantly to bring the ball down only for Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina to bravely block the one-on-one effort.
Yet Poland’s hopes of getting back into the contest were dashed 20 minutes from time when Falcao, who was ruled out of the 2014 tournament through injury, scored his country’s second.
He was released by a terrific ball from Quintero, who weighted the pass perfectly to allow Falcao to take one touch and coolly slot an outside-of-the-foot finish into the net.
Colombia were not done there and their third goal may have been the pick of the bunch.
Rodriguez created it from the byline when he spotted Cuadrado in space down the middle. The ex-Chelsea winger took two touches to race through and then placed his effort beyond Juventus team-mate Szczesny and into the corner of the net.
The Poles sought a consolation, but Ospina preserved Colombia’s clean sheet with saves from both Grzegorz Krychowiak and Lewandowski.