Poland 0 Colombia 3
James Rodriguez was the Colombian to make an enduring impression the last World Cup, Juan Quintero suggested he might yet etch his name into the story of this one here in Kazan with the 25-year-old at the creative heart of a wonderful attacking display that puts the South Americans right back in the hunt for a second round place.
Jan Nawalka changed his team and tactics to counter the strengths of the South Americans but there was simply no containing them on the night. Quintero was irresistible in the number 10 role with Juan Cuadrado and Rodriguez tearing at the Poles relentlessly from out wide. It took just over 30 minutes for their dominance to deliver a goal but they were the better side throughout all but the very earliest exchanges and once Poland were obliged to chase the game they always looked doomed.
If anyone was to save the Polish side it would be Robert Lewandowski but he could not even come close. The Bayern Munich striker forced two good saves from David Ospina but the Europeans were behind by the time he made his first contribution of note and beaten before the second.
Quintero, on the other hand, sat behind Falcao at the other end and ran things for Colombia while they looked their opener. He had a key hand in the first two goals then departed when the game was safe with Jose Pekerman putting him on ice, no doubt, for Senegal next Thursday.
Poland will be packed for home by then although they can still salvage some pride and play a big part in deciding who progresses by beating Japan. A win against the Africans would do Colombia regardless, though, and they will fancy themselves strongly after this.
The return of Rodriguez was clearly a major boost here but it was Quintero, whose previous attempt to crack the European big leagues ended in disappointment when Porto allowed his return home, who ran proceedings. A performance or two more than this and it seems safe to assume he will be back.
Watching him here It was hard to imagine how, or why, it didn’t work out for him first time around and his passing and control were outstanding against a side that admittedly gave far too much time and space. He is currently on loan at River Plate and if, as reported, they really do have an option to buy him for €5 million, they may be in for a bit of a windfall.
Poland, for their part, looked like willing accomplices in their own downfall. They started with three central defenders and wing backs who were persistently pinned back by the Colombian wide men. Until the opening goal, they had not allowed their opponents a shot on target but only because they smothered things in and around their own area; a few yards further out, Quintero and co were having a field day.
“We are talking here about two players with extraordinary talent,” Colombia’s Argentine coach remarked afterwards with regard to Quintero and Rodiguez. “They showed that tonight and combined really well but the whole of the team stuck to the plan.
“We showed a lot of the things that we would have liked to apply on other occasions in this game. Some of the players are still recovering from injuries but we have always had as our goal to play the way we played tonight. We stayed true to our style from beginning to end tonight and while we knew Poland would be a tough rival, and we were playing with the pressure of having to win, we shouldered all of that responsibility and played some beautiful football.”
The opening goal, a close range header by Barcelona defender Yerry Mina that came from a nicely worked short corner, forced Nawalka into a switch intended to enable his team to get on the front foot. But the more damaging upshot was that they started to leave themselves open at the back, something Colombia pushed ruthlessly with two second half counterattacks.
Cuadrado had a hand in the first of them, but Quintero’s was the killer pass that released Falcao for a fine finish with the outside of his right foot. Rodiguez then made the third for Cuadrado with a stunning angled ball from out wide and inside his own half after the Poles had surrendered possession from one of their own throws.
“After the first goal we tried to attack our opponents and we had players with the experience to do it,” said Nawalka as he came under immediate attack from his nation’s media for the defensive formation and the time it took his side to start attacking. “But of course there was more space then and they had experienced players too who used the counter-attacks well.
“We tried to save ourselves but in the end the Colombian team was far better. We had a couple of chances at the end but we were didn’t take them. We have beaten and have to come to grips with that. Tomorrow is another day.
Colombia: Ospina; Arias, Mina, D Sanchez, Mojica; Aguilar (Uribe, 32 mins), Barrios; Cuadrado, Quintero (Lerma, 73 mins), Rodriguez; Falcao (Bacca, 78 mins).
Poland: Szczesny; Piszczek, Bednarek, Pazdan (Glik, 80 mins); Bereszynski Teodorczyk, (72 mins) , Krychowiak, Goralski, Rybus; Zielinski, Lewandowski. Kownacki (Kownacki, 57 mins).
Referee: C Ramos (Mexico).