Colombia have stamped their authority over Group C at the 2014 FIFA World Cup this morning, completing a perfect pool performance of three wins from as many starts with a thumping 4-1 victory over Japan, knocking the Blue Samurai out of the tournament.
Having already ensured qualification to the knockout phase of the World Cup via comfortable victories over Greece and the Ivory Coast last week, Colombia were aiming to sew up top spot with victory over Japan this morning, and had to wait just 17 minutes to open their account when a careless challenge from Yasuyoiko Konno on Adrian Ramos in the box resulted in Juan Cuadrado converting from the dot.
Unable to break off the back foot for the next 15 minutes, Japan began to build in confidence approaching halftime and were unlucky not to have one of several good chances on goal converted in the final 10 before a brilliant through-ball from Keisuke Honda found Okazaki in space, levelling the scores at 1-1 when heading into the sheds.
Returning from the break in similarly positive form, the Japanese continued to battle gallantly but were seemingly unable to contain Monaco midfielder and halftime substitute James Rodriguez, who launched several impressive raids from the centre of the pitch, eventually resulting in a brilliant split of the Japanese defence to put Jackson Martinez one-on-one with Kawashima and Colombia 2-1 up.
Once again fighting back, Japan thrust themselves into the Colombian half but were unable to find passage to the goal of David Ospina; shut down time and time again by a rampant defensive unit.
Again claiming the ball in his own half, Rodriguez launched a similar counter-play to that which delivered Colombia’s second and again found Martinez, who arguably slotted his nation’s best goal of the 2014 FIFA World Cup so-far when curling his shot into the top corner of the Japanese goal.
Already well and truly out of contention and resigned to exiting the 2014 World Cup with just one competition point, Japan appeared dead on their feet, well and truly run ragged by the Colombian squad and were dealt one final blow when standout performer Rodriguez again broke the Japanese ranks, finishing off a solo effort with a smart chip over Kawashima to close the match 4-1.
Securing top spot in Group C, Columbia will now face the runner up of Group D Uruguay in the Round of 16 on Sunday morning.
Leading online bookie Ladbrokes.com.au is currently offering Los Cafeteros as clear favourite to beat Uruguay on Sunday morning at generous $2.10 odds.