BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Starved of the World Cup action for 16 years, Colombia — and its fanatical traveling supporters — are certainly making the most of being back on football's biggest stage.
Driven on by a partisan pro-Colombian crowd that turned the Estadio Nacional into a sea of yellow, the South Americans scored through James Rodriguez and substitute Juan Quintero in a devastating six-minute spell in the second half to beat Ivory Coast 2-1 on Thursday.
A second victory in Group C, following a 3-0 win over Greece, helped Colombia qualify for a place in the last 16. A 0-0 draw between Japan and Greece in the later group match ensured Colombia would progress to the next stage.
"We have had two wins with players who are playing their first World Cup," Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said. "We're happy to have defeated such a good opponent. We have a lot of young players, and this is going to help them grow."
Known for his midfield artistry, playmaker Rodriguez showed his prowess in the air by getting clear of Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba — again only used as a substitute — at a corner to head in Colombia's opener in the 64th minute, lighting up a disappointing match.
The celebrations had hardly died down among the vast hordes of Colombia supporters by the time a defensive mistake by Ivory Coast midfielder Serey Die allowed Teofilo Gutierrez to play in Quintero, and the midfielder slotted home a low finish.
Ivory Coast replied with a brilliant 73rd-minute solo goal by Gervinho, his second of the World Cup, but couldn't find a second despite a strong finish. The Ivorians remain on three points after their 2-1 opening win over Japan.
Instead of Radamel Falcao, the country's star striker who was ruled out through injury before the tournament, the most important factor in Colombia's march through the group stage has arguably been its amazing support.
With supporters wearing yellow shirts dominating the stadium, it was effectively an away game for the Ivorians.
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