A spirited Japanese effort to save their World Cup tournament was duly bunted by a high flying Colombian team led by James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez, as the playmaker’s latest brilliance with the Porto man led his side to a 4-1 victory and a 100% record in the group stages.
Alberto Zaccheroni’s side had the better play in the beginning of the match, as the inclusion of Toshihiro Aoyama in the lineup and finally moving Mainz 05 star Shinji Okazaki up front seemed to indicate that they would score the first goal. But a silly challenge by center-back Yasuyuki Konno on Adrian Ramos in the box lead to Juan Cuadrado scoring the penalty in the 17th minute to give his side another lead this World Cup.
Requiring nothing less than a victory to advance, Japan came back with Okazaki heading in just before halftime from a good Keisuke Honda cross to make it 1-1. But the hopes for Japan to secure a memorable result went quickly away, as Jose Pekerman brought on Rodriguez at the start of the second half for Juan Quintero. And when the Monaco attacking midfielder came on the field, the whole dynamic of the match changed.
Rodriguez set up his former club teammate for the second goal, as Martinez ended his infamous scoring drought for country in the 55th minute. The physical but smooth striker recorded a brace by calmly finishing past Eiji Kawashima again in the 82nd minute.
But the 22-year-old sensation stole the headlines in the 90th minute with the individual dribble goal of the tournament, cleverly weaving past a dejected Japanese defense and chipping over a hapless Kawashima to emphatically complete a terrific group stage for Los Cafeteros.
For a nation that has not been to a World Cup in 18 years and still without their biggest star in Radamel Falcao, Colombia are looking more and more as genuine contenders for the title. And with a Uruguay team that may not have the services of Luis Suarez in the Round of 16, those possible title prospects will continue to go up and up.
Watch the match highlights of Colombia 4-1 Japan here: