Uruguay had won 6 of their last 8 meetings with Colombia, losing just the 1, and had emerged victorious in the sides' only previous World Cup encounter, 2-1 in 1962. But this was a Colombia team already enjoying their most prolific World Cup campaign ever, firing in 9 goals in their first 3 games and possessing one of the stars of the tournament in James Rodriguez.
Jackson Martinez retained his place in the Colombia starting XI following his double against Japan, as Los Cafeteros made just one change from the side which started their second group game against Ivory Coast; Victor Ibarbo dropping to the bench. Uruguay were missing you-know-who for doing you-know-what, meaning a return in attack for Diego Forlan alongside Edinson Cavani. Maxi Pereira was also back in action after serving a one-match ban for his sending-off against Costa Rica.
Colombia made an aggressive start with Juans Cuadrado and Zuniga looking to take people on and drive forward from midfield, but Uruguay were happy to sit back and soak up the pressure in the opening 20 minutes.
But there was little they could do to stop Rodriguez's stunning 20-yarder in off the crossbar. Colombia had already tried their luck from distance several times and eventually struck gold; Rodriguez scoring his fourth goal in as many World Cup games and sixth in six outings for his country.
The goal forced la Celeste to come out their shell, and their response to conceding was good in the 10 minutes immediately after the opener. Colombia, meanwhile, were focusing all of their play down the right.
Rodriguez's stunner separated the sides at half-time. 0 of Uruguay's 4 attempts worked keeper David Ospina.
The Monaco man enjoyed a standout 45 minutes. On top of the goal, Rodriguez made more attacking third passes than any other player on the pitch and created the most chances for others.
Zuniga, meanwhile, was giving the Uruguay back-line plenty to ponder with his driving runs down the right wing. The Napoli man received the ball 34 times in the first half, fired off 2 shots and was involved in the top pass combination with Cristian Zapata (15).
Less than five minutes of the second half had elapsed when Colombia doubled their tally; a fantastic team goal which flowed from flank to flank and ended with Cuadrado's far-post header teeing up Rodriguez.
While Zuniga was charging down the right wing, Pablo Armero was backing him up on the opposite side. By the hour mark, the former West Ham loanee had made a game-high 6 ball recoveries and provided the cross which led to the second goal.
Oscar Tabarez's troops fought back in the second half and racked up the goal attempts. But not enough of them troubled the keeper; Ospina thrice saving from long range and blocking Maxi Pereira's poked effort. Colombia were clinical with their 1 big chance of the half and less enthused about pouring forward thereafter, instead ensuring they maintained their advantage.
So Uruguay head home, while Colombia can look forward to their first ever World Cup quarter-final, against hosts Brazil, full of confidence that the tournament's leading scorer Rodriguez can take them even further.
Facts and figures
- Colombia have never drawn 0-0 at the World Cup finals in their total of 17 games.
- James Rodriguez is the first player to score in the first 4 games of a World Cup since Ronaldo and Rivaldo in 2002.
- Rodriguez now has 5 goals in this World Cup, the number of goals which won the Golden Boot in both 2010 and 2006.
- Rodriguez is also the first player to score in each of his first 4 World Cup games since Christian Vieri in 1998.
- Juan Cuadrado has now provided 4 assists in this World Cup, more than any other player.
- Indeed, Cuadrado is the first player to provide 4 assists in a World Cup since Riquelme and Totti in 2006.
- In Serie A 2013/14, Cuadrado managed just 5 assists in 32 games, just 1 more than he has already provided in this World Cup.
- This is the first time Los Cafeteros have qualified for the quarter-finals of a World Cup.
- Uruguay failed to register a single shot on target in the first half against Colombia.
- 9 of the last 11 goals Uruguay have conceded at the World Cup finals have come in the second half.