David Ospina urged Colombia not to let their impressive victory over Poland go to waste as they seek another three points against Senegal and qualification from Group H.
The 2014 quarter-finalists got their Russia 2018 campaign off to a torrid start, Carlos Sanchez’s third-minute red card against Japan setting the tone for an opening 2-1 defeat.
They bounced back in style against Poland, however, cruising to a 3-0 win in Kazan on Sunday to eliminate their opponents and keep their own hopes alive.
Colombia sit third in the group, a point adrift of Japan and Senegal, who defeated Poland 2-1 in their first game before an entertaining 2-2 draw with the Blue Samurai last time out.
While a point will definitely be enough to see Senegal through to the last 16, Colombia are likely to need all three in Samara if Jose Pekerman’s side are to avoid tumbling out of the tournament at the first hurdle.
‘We are not thinking about anything apart from the next game,’ Arsenal goalkeeper Ospina said. “We are still in third place in the group and if we don’t win then we are going home.
‘So our concentration and our 100 per cent focus is on Senegal, not who we could play in the next round. Winning against Poland has put us back in the World Cup. We must not throw the good work away now.’
Radamel Falcao netted his first World Cup goal in the win over Poland and Ospina was delighted to see his team-mate deliver on the grandest stage.
‘Falcao has been a great striker – and I think he is proving that he is still a great striker,’ Ospina said. ‘He is my friend and I am happy for him. It is important to score goals when you are the main forward and now the pressure is not as big.’
Senegal head coach Aliou Cisse – captain of the side that reached the last eight in 2002 – was less than impressed with his side’s showing against Japan, but knows the second round remains within reach.
‘We have worked hard, we need only one point to be qualified, this is our goal, this generation deserves to go further in this competition,’ he said.
‘We need to improve the impact. We need to be more aggressive on the ball. At this level it goes very fast. We need to have more concentration. We need to be more rigorous.’
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Senegal – M’Baye Niang
The Torino striker scored just four goals in 26 Serie A appearances in 2017-18, but was quickly into his stride in Russia and netted his maiden international goal in the win over Poland. He also claimed an assist for Moussa Wague in the draw with Japan, so Colombia would be foolish to focus all their efforts on stopping Sadio Mane.
Colombia – Radamel Falcao
After a torrid spell in the Premier League with Manchester United and Chelsea, Falcao looks back to his best with club and country. His clinical outside-of-the-boot finish against Poland was pure class and, with James Rodriguez providing the ammunition, Senegal must be on their guard.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– James Rodriguez has been involved in 10 goals in seven World Cup appearances for Colombia (six goals, four assists).
– Colombia registered their joint-biggest World Cup win in their 3-0 victory over Poland, also winning by three-goal margins against Greece (3-0) and Japan (4-1) in 2014.
– Moussa Wague became the first African teenager to score a World Cup goal in Senegal’s 2-2 draw with Japan (19y 263d).
– James Rodriguez has been involved in 10 of Colombia’s last 14 World Cup goals, with six goals and four assists.
– Sadio Mane found the net against Japan, the 15th different match he’d scored in for Senegal – they are yet to lose any of those (W9 D6).
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