Colombia got its dream result Thursday with a 1-0 win against Senegal to win Group H and classify for the Round of 16 for the second straight time. A slow first half looked to spell bad news for the Colombians, which needed a win to secure first place in the group as they headed into the game in third. When superstar James Rodríguez had to check out in the 31st minute with a calf injury, the writing seemed to be on the wall for a struggling offense.
That was until a revived second half saw Colombia constantly on the attack. In the 74th minute, a Juan Fernando Quintero free kick found the head of Yerry Mina, who scored a header for the second straight game. The decisive goal sending Colombia through in the World Cup came thanks to a great effort from Juan Cuadrado, who snuck into the box from the right wing to force the free kick.
Colombia will now wait to meet the loser of Thursday afternoon’s England vs. Belgium match. By winning the group, Los Cafeteros are now placed on what looks to be the easier side of the knockout stage bracket where they would face the winner of Switzerland vs Sweden to have a chance at the semifinals if they manage to beat the England – Belgium loser in the first knockout game.
Elsewhere in Group H, Poland beat Japan 1-0 but the Japanese still qualified ahead of Senegal because of the Fair Play rule. Although Senegal and Japan ended the group with the same points and same goal differential, because Senegal had more yellow cards in group play, Japan is the team that moves on. It is the first time in World Cup history that a group advancer has been decided by the Fair Play rule.
Speaking of historic firsts, Colombians will be happy to know that this is the first time the country has reached the knockout stage in consecutive tournaments as José Pékerman guided the selection to the quarterfinals in Brazil in 2014.
Colombia will kick off its next game against the Group F runner-up on Tuesday at 1 p.m. Colombian Local Time.