Colombia came away from the Kazan Arena with three precious points after a dazzling display in their 3-0 win over Poland.
Towering defender Yerry Mina opened the scoring five minutes before half-time as he nodded in a cross from James Rodriguez.
Radamel Falcao latched onto a through ball from Juan Quintero to double the Colombians’ lead with 20 minutes to play before Rodriguez assisted Juan Cuadrado for the third five minutes later.
The result in Group H means Poland are eliminated from the World Cup with one game left to play.
PUMP THE BRAKES
For a game played at a 100 miles an hour, much of the first half suggested it could end up being the first 0-0 of this World Cup. While there was plenty of action on the pitch, the referee remarkably kept his cards in his pocket in the opening period despite several late challenges flying in, there was little to marvel at.
The encounter got off to a fast start and incredibly seemed to maintain its frenetic pace. However, clear cut chances were hard to come by as both sides tried to force the issue which made for a increasingly scrappy game with turnovers aplenty. Neither team were able to get on the ball and dictate play with prolonged spells of possession. Only on two occasions did Colombia compose themselves, take stock and try to work an opening.
The first saw Santiago Arias overlap Cuadrado on the right and get on the end of a carefully threaded through ball. His ball across the turf from inside the area was blocked by Lukasz Piszczek, though, who got ahead of Falcao. The second opportunity came from a short corner which eventually saw Falcao play the ball to Cuadrado who helped it on for Rodriguez.
The attacking midfielder floated in a delicious cross from which Mina headed home. Hopefully, Colombia have realised the value in slowing things down at times and will bear that in mind moving forward.
RELIANCE ON LEWANDOWSKI
Both sides lack creativity in central midfield but while Colombia have the guile of Rodriguez and Quintero to rely on through the middle in the final third, Poland are found wanting. Take out Piotr Zielinski and they are almost entirely devoid of ingenuity in midfield. It’s no surprise against formidable opposition, Lewandowski is largely left to fend for himself.
Adam Nawalka’s side look to go direct to the Bayern Munich striker when possible and try to whip crosses in for him. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to get down the sides of Colombia as often as they would have liked.
Poland’s best chance came about when they went long towards Lewandowski just before the hour mark and he brought it down expertly before getting a good shot away only to be thwarted by an onrushing David Ospina. On another occasion, a ball volleyed back into the box saw the striker do well to meet it with his head but couldn’t get enough on it under pressure from two defenders.
COLOMBIA’S FEARSOME FOURSOME
Four years ago a star was born when Rodriguez almost single-handedly dragged Colombia to the semi-finals in Falcao’s absence, ably assisted by an exciting winger in Cuadrado. This time around, the 26-year-old has far more support in attack.
For one, a resurgent Falcao, and all the experience he brings, occupies the centre-backs and plays on the shoulder of the last defender. Cuadrado has matured as well while Juan Quintero has also been deeply impressive.
The FC Porto loan star was in top form against Poland, bagging a fine assist for the second goal and was involved in several attacks.
Rodriguez was still the linchpin though. With two assists, three key passes, four dribbles and much more, the attacking midfielder was the main man but was no doubt complimented by a potent supporting cast.
“This may be my last one. I want to enjoy this and forget all the criticism, all the whispers from behind,” Pogba said ahead of Tuesday’s Group C final game against Denmark.
France have already made it to the last 16 and will secure top position if they avoid defeat against Denmark.
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He Kane, he saw and he conquered. England captain and leading light Harry Kane joined Sir Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker to plunder a hat-trick at World Cup 2018.
The Tottenham frontman polished off two penalties and added a fortuitous third as the Three Lions recorded their biggest-ever World Cup victory in the 6-1 hammering of poor Panama.
Here’s a closer look at Kane’s performance, as his goals to lead the Golden Boot race hallmarked an impressive display in Nizhny Novgorod.
Cool, clinical and calculated. England have a bleak history when it comes to penalties but should they arrive in the knockouts, Gareth Southgate has at least one guaranteed success.
Kane torpedoed twin spot-kicks and then required forward’s fortune to notch his hat-trick as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s strike ballooned in off his heel.
The 24-year-old was substituted straight after but despite only touching the ball 21 times, Kane was supremely efficient away from his goals.
He dropped deep collected the ball confidently and would look to link-up with runners ahead of him in Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling.
The goals give him a great platform to contend the Golden Boot alongside Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo. In this form, there is more to come.
Embracing the pressure – As Lionel Messi has already shown in Russia, scoring from 12-yards is no easy feat for a player bearing immense pressure. But like his idol Cristiano Ronaldo, Kane stepped up and buried two precise pens to justify his status as England’s leading man.
Battle hardened – Panama lead the way for bookings in Russia and their rough and tough tactics were aimed squarely at Kane. He was England’s joint-most fouled player (two) and aside from those awarded, he stood up well to a battering from the Central Americans.
All-round play – Nit-picking in the absolute extreme considering he scored a hat-trick, but 21 touches in 65 minutes is not the complete centre-forward play England will require against tougher opposition. What marked Kane out as an elite striker for Spurs is his all-round development outside of his gluttony of goals and we’re yet to see that impact in Russia.
Kane viciously finished his two penalties, which spoke volumes for his confidence, and then cruelly secured his hat-trick via a deflection, a nod to the fortune all in-form forwards enjoy.
With five goals in two games, the England No9 is keeping up his weighty promise to rival Ronaldo for the Golden Boot.
Kane truly believes he’s capable of doing so and that motivation can only be to England’s benefit.
RATING – 9/10