The right blend of Falcao & Co

Radamel Falcao of Colombia celebrates after scoring a clinical and hair-raising second goal in the 3-0 win over Poland in Kazan on Sunday. The Colombians now need to beat Senegal in their final Group H game to secure their place in the last 16.
Radamel Falcao of Colombia celebrates after scoring a clinical and hair-raising second goal in the 3-0 win over Poland in Kazan on Sunday. The Colombians now need to beat Senegal in their final Group H game to secure their place in the last 16.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Striker gets first World Cup goal as Colombia find success with midfield trio as support cast

KAZAN • Colombia coach Jose Pekerman has tipped Radamel Falcao for more success after his star striker scored his first World Cup goal in a 3-0 win over Poland on Sunday.

And if Los Cafeteros - The Coffee Growers - midfielders continue to produce chances for their hitman, favourable results could come sooner than later.

It was not just the margin of victory over Poland at the Kazan Arena that has the Colombian supporters excited as well as rivals waking up and smelling the coffee, but the manner of it.

The midfield trio of James Rodriguez, Juan Quintero and Juan Cuadrado orchestrated a performance of real brio that revived memories of Colombia's charge to the quarter-finals at the last World Cup.

"From beginning to end, we stayed true to our style," said Pekerman, whose side were undone by a third-minute red card in their opening loss against Japan. "We were playing under the pressure of having to win and there could be no mistakes (but) as time went by we managed to impose this quality, this type of football that we have.

"Keeping the ball on the ground and not in the air, circulating the ball smoothly, having players exchange moves quickly. The team played as a unit... and the football emerged from this unity."

After Yerry Mina broke the deadlock with a powerful header in the 40th minute, Falcao made no mistake when he was sent through on goal by a sublime Quintero pass from the right side that saw him coolly beat goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny with the outside of his right boot on 70 minutes.

"I think this is one of the greatest joys we experienced tonight," Pekerman said. "He's a symbol of our team, a symbol for Colombian football. We always hoped that he would score and that he can be as fit as he was in the match today.

"We want to help him as a team so that he can show all his skill and shine. And I think the fact that today he scored was extremely important not only for today's match but for future matches."

Falcao, 32, was cruelly deprived of competing in the World Cup four years ago after suffering a serious knee injury while playing for Monaco. But Pekerman can now field him in front of Rodriguez, the Golden Boot winner in Brazil with six goals.

Rodriguez, recovering from a calf injury, was only a substitute against Japan but started against Poland.

His cross-field pass was finished off by Cuadrado in the 75th minute to cap an impressive team performance.

Colombia now need to beat Senegal in their final group game to be sure of a place in the last 16.

Poland arrived in Russia ranked highest of the four teams in Group H at eighth but ended up being the first team out of contention for the knockout stages with lacklustre performances in their first two matches.

Poland topped their qualifying group, with Robert Lewandowski leading Europe's qualifying campaign with 16 of the side's 28 goals.

Their offensive play on Sunday appeared limited to launching long balls towards the 29-year-old, who often had to fall back in the hope of receiving more service.

Barcelona defender Mina and Co did well to shut down the striker and are getting ready for the Africans.

"I was waiting for my moment to come," said Mina. "Senegal? Let's go with everything we have!"

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2018, with the headline 'The right blend of Falcao & Co'. Print Edition | Subscribe