The 20,000+ Colombia fans in Samara will toast a new hero on Thursday after Yerry Mina’s solitary goal sent them through to the last 16 of the World Cup at the expense of Senegal.
As the only African nation left in the competition, Aliou Cisse’s men were carrying the hopes of an entire continent, but they join Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria and Morocco in heading home early due to their inferior disciplinary record when set alongside that of Japan.
But that will be of little consequence to Colombia as, for the second time in as many games, Barcelona defender Mina rose highest to nod home and send the yellow army into raptures inside a deafening Samara Arena.
Mina had opened the scoring in the 3-0 win over Poland last time out – a victory that rekindled the nation’s hopes following the disappointment of a 2-1 loss to Japan to open their Group H campaign.
James Rodriguez had starred in that trouncing of Poland, providing the cross for Mina’s goal before delivering a killer ball for Juan Cuadrado to round off the scoring.
Radamel Falcao’s clinical strike was sandwiched between those two efforts, but here it was not he, or James, or Juan Fernando Quintero, who stole the show in front of the yellow masses.
Mina’s header sends Colombia through as Group H winners.
— Harry West (@West1882) June 28, 2018
Quintero did swing over the right-wing corner for the 74th-minute winner, but other than that he was largely anonymous in what had been, up until that point, an insipid performance from Jose Pekerman’s side.
Similarly, Falcao was superbly marshalled by Kalidou Koulibaly as ‘El Tigre’ struggled to force his will upon the contest.
As for James – exactly four years on from the moment that shot him to international stardom with that superb volley against Uruguay at the Maracana – he endured the other side of World Cup football’s fickle nature in leaving the action after only half an hour.
A calf problem meant he was only fit enough to climb off the bench against Japan, and it seemed it was another muscular injury causing him discomfort as he trudged straight down the tunnel and was replaced by Luis Muriel.
In truth, his involvement until that moment had been peripheral, the Bayern Munich playmaker touching the ball on only 15 occasions – seven of which were in his own half.
Although the 2014 Golden Boot winner could have no further say in the contest, Colombia’s resolve saw them find a match-winner from an alternative source as Mina thumped a downward header into the net.
His opening six months at Barca have been a real toil, but Pekerman had kind words for the 23-year-old in his pre-match media conference.
“I’m sure it was a hard time for him and that’s how he reached us at the World Cup and we never doubted him or his talent,” Pekerman said.
¡Gol de Colombia!
Anota Yerry Mina de cabeza
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