José Pekerman considered the prospect of a last‑16 collision with England and described it as a “full-on to the death match”. The manager and his Colombia team will play it in Moscow on Tuesday after emerging from a shoot-out against Senegal and in a group that twisted dramatically at the last.
Colombia had needed to defeat Africa’s last remaining representative to make sure of their qualification – even though a draw would have sufficed because of Poland’s surprise 1-0 win over Japan – and they did so thanks to Yerry Mina’s towering 74th‑minute header from Juan Quintero’s corner. It was the moment for which Colombia had prayed and when it came the release of emotion was overwhelming.
The result, coupled with that in the other Group H tie, meant Colombia advanced as the winners of the section and the delight was evident with all of Pekerman’s players, who performed a team dance routine after the goal. Up in the stands, the country’s legendary former midfielder Carlos Valderrama led the celebrations.
It was a tempestuous occasion, framed by noise and colour, but the on-field spectacle failed to keep up. There was minimal goalmouth action, with Colombia mustering only two efforts on target. Senegal had three. But the outcome was all that mattered to Los Cafeteros, who had to contend with the loss of their marquee player, James Rodríguez, to injury after 31 minutes.
Pekerman was unclear whether Rodríguez, who had carried a calf problem to this tournament, would be able to play against England and he declared himself to be “extremely concerned”. He added: “It’s a topic that could overshadow everything. It’s a tough situation for my team.”
Poor Senegal. They controlled the first half and their performance was framed by sound tactics, organisation and aggressive pressing – together with speed on the counterattack. On the other hand they laboured to create clear-cut chances, messing up a clutch of promising situations.
The roof fell in on them after Mina’s goal and in the end they were squeezed into third place and out of the competition on yellow cards accumulated, having finished level with Japan on points, goal difference and goals scored. Two bookings was the difference.
Senegal had been determined to emulate their only previous showing at a World Cup – the quarter-final finish from 2002. Instead, they would make an unwanted piece of history. They are the first team to be eliminated from the World Cup on fair play criteria.