KAZAN, Russia (Reuters) – Colombia’s World Cup campaign roared back into life with a thumping 3-0 victory over Poland on Sunday which delivered a warning to their rivals and sent the disappointing Poles tumbling out of the tournament.
Defender Yerry Mina scored the opener in the 40th minute with captain Radamel Falcao and winger Juan Cuadrado putting the gloss on the Group H win with two goals in five minutes in the last quarter as the desperate Poles chased the game.
Midfielder James Rodriguez, winner of the Golden Boot at the last World Cup, returned to the starting lineup after injury and played a part in two of the goals as Colombia got back on track after their opening loss to Japan.
The victory puts the South Americans in third place in Group H on three points behind Japan and Senegal, who shared a 2-2 draw earlier on Sunday to move to four points apiece.
A Colombia victory over the Africans in their final first-round match in Samara on Thursday would secure a spot in the last 16 and keep them on target to at least match their charge to the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago.
“We were playing under the pressure of having to win and there could be no mistakes,” said Colombia coach Jose Pekerman.
“As time went by we managed to impose the quality of this type of football that we have. The team played as a unit in all its segments and the football emerged from this unity.”
For Poland, the optimism fostered by their quarter-final spot at Euro 2016 and a strong qualifying campaign proved to be misplaced as prolific striker Robert Lewandowski drew a blank and they slumped to a second successive defeat.
“Maybe that’s all we could do. Let’s be frank, it’s not like we lost by a whisker,” said Lewandowski.
“I was alone, we fought, I fought, I did everything I could, but fighting is not enough to win World Cup matches, you also have to have quality and we had too little of that.”