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Pekerman ‘optimistic’ as Colombia seek Senegal win


Samara (Russia) (AFP) – Jose Pekerman has refused to entertain the prospect of seeing Colombia’s stuttering World Cup campaign end with their final Group H clash against Senegal on Thursday.

Despite following a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Japan with a decisive 3-0 win over Poland, Colombia need to beat the on-form Africans in Samara if they are to avoid what would be seen as an embarrassing exit.

“We came here for more, so it wouldn’t be a good result for us not to reach the second round,” Pekerman said. 

Elimination “isn’t something we’re even considering,” he added.

After years of struggling to progress to the latter stages, James Rodriguez’s tournament-topping six goals steered Colombia to their best-ever finish of the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago. 

But with only three points to their name in Russia, Colombia likely need to win against Aliou Cisse’s Senegal.

Colombia failed to qualify from 2002 to 2010, and their previous two campaigns, in 1998 and 1994, ended at the first hurdle.

Pekerman, an Argentine who coached his native country at the 2006 World Cup, produced a tactical masterstroke against the Poles when he aligned left-footed Juan Quintero and Rodriguez in a three-man midfield to devastating effect.

Both players were decisive in goals scored by Monaco striker Radamel Falcao, Barcelona defender Yerry Mina and Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado during an impressive performance that suggested more is to come from the south Americans.

“We are doing everything to stay (in the competition), we are very optimistic,” added Pekerman, who was in charge four years ago when hosts Brazil beat Colombia 2-1 and ended their hopes in the semi-finals.

With Senegal and Japan both on four points, Colombia and Senegal could both progress with a draw but only if Japan lose to Poland.

If Japan and Senegal both win, Colombia will be eliminated and who tops the group will be decided on goal difference and then goals scored.

But Pekerman said Colombia will not be aiming for anything less than a win.

“It’s clear this is a decisive match and that victory is what will secure our qualification,” he said.

“There’s a great mood in the squad and we have to be optimistic after our performances against Poland.”

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