Yerry Mina rises for Colombia’s first goal. (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Full time: Colombia 3, Poland 0

Group H, Kazan Arena, Kazan

Colombia not only blew out Poland on Sunday afternoon, 3-0, but the Tricolors also eliminated offered some clarity in the race for the group’s two spots in the knockout stage. Poland, the highest-ranked team by FIFA entering the tournament, is eliminated. That leaves Colombia (three points) with a much improved chance to advance along with either Senegal or Japan (four points each).

Colombia repeatedly attacked Poland down the left side, exploiting its weakness for two goals. The third came on a beautiful pass ahead and into the middle by Juan Quintero to set up a goal for sentimental hero Radamel Falcao, 32, who missed the last World Cup because of a left knee injury that required two ACL surgeries to fix.

Poland tried all afternoon to find a weakness in Colombia’s back line but it never put together a dangerous chance and finished with just two of its nine shots on goal. Even with the team’s three goals, Colombia’s defense might have been the biggest reason the Tricolors find themselves with a quality opportunity to move on.

***

What’s next

Colombia: vs. Senegal in Samara, Thursday, 10 a.m.

Poland: vs. Japan in Volgograd, Thursday, 10 a.m.

Complete World Cup scores, standings and schedule

***


Want smart analysis, opinions, viewing guides and more from the World Cup? Sign up for our month-long newsletter. Every match day through the final July 15.


In-game updates

Poland gets its second yellow

In the 85th minute, Jacek Goralski got a yellow card for under-cutting James Rodríguez while Rodríguez was passing and knocked him down.

Another one!

Colombia broke open the game in the 75th minute when Colombia’s Johan Mojica ran up the left side, drew two defenders and seemingly passed to green grass. But as the ball rolled, Juan Cuadrado appeared and picked up the pass to carry it into the box. His right-footed shot deposited into the bottom-right corner and the yellow jerseys in the crowd knew now for sure. The celebration was on.

Gooooooal
One possession after another potential Poland power play crumbled, Colombia marched down the field and did what the Eagles haven’t been able to: Finish in the final third. Colombia’s Juan Quintero drew the defense in and, as they converged, threaded a lead pass to Radamel Falcao. The Colombian forward, who missed the 2014 World Cup due to injury, streaked up almost the middle of the box and put the ball away as he and Colombia pushed Poland’s World Cup dreams to the brink.

Bednarek assessed a yellow card

The game’s first yellow card came in the 60th minute, when Poland’s Jan Bednarek pulled down Colombia’s Mateus Uribe. After Poland turned the ball over, Uribe had a strong first touch and Bednarek seemed to know he was beat. It was a tactical foul to stop the counterattack.

Halftime: Colombia 1, Poland 0

The Tricolors hold an advantage on the scoreboard, but what we’ve seen on the field shows it could easily be the other way. Poland has a slight advantage in penalty corners (five to four) but trails on shots (three to two). Both sides have one on goal, and Colombia has been the only one to make it count so far. If Polish star Robert Lewandowski can get similar chances in the second half that he did in the first, this could turn out differently.

Goooooal!

A physical first half seemed destined for a scoreless finish until center back Yerry Mina rose up in the 39th minute to snap a header past Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny for a 1-0 lead. Star Colombia striker James Rodriguez set up the power touch from Mina with a perfect touch on a cross in front the net.

Colombian fans, who traveled well to Russia, had been ready to jump around since before the match started. Now, they had their chance.

Starting lineups

Pregame thoughts

The stakes couldn’t be higher for the first-ever competitive match between Colombia and Poland. The teams entered as Group H favorites, but after both surprisingly fell in their openers, they now find themselves on the brink of elimination.

If this game produces a winner, or if the teams draw and Japan or Senegal wins in Sunday’s other Group H match, it should set up a wild finish on Thursday.

One of Colombia’s main objectives will be to keep all 11 players on the field after midfielder Carlos Sanchez received a red card in the third minute against Japan last week, the second-fastest in World Cup history, leaving his teammates down a man for 87 minutes. The Tricolors also hopes James Rodriguez’s left calf is healed after he hurt it in training before the Japan game. The star striker entered as a sub in that 2-1 loss.

For Poland, which traveled well to Spartak Stadium for its opener, it needs to incorporate star striker Robert Lewandowski into the attack better. The Eagles also made perhaps the most egregious gaffe of the World Cup this year when Grzegorz Krychowiak played a ball back to goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, but the nonchalant pass was stolen by Senegal’s M’Baye Niang and converted for the eventual game-winning goal. With the margins for error slimming, both teams anticipate a tightly contested match.

“It will be like a final,” Colombia striker Radamel Falcao said, via the BBC.

When: Sunday, 2 p.m. Eastern.

How to watch on TV: Fox.

How to stream online: Fox Sports and the Fox Soccer Match Pass apps and FoxSportsGo.com.

How to watch in Spanish: Telemundo.

How to watch in Canada: Bell Media’s TSN and CTV networks, the TSN GO app and TSN.ca/live.

Team profiles

Colombia (0-0-1, 0 points)

  • Previous result: Lost to Japan, 2-1, on Tuesday.
  • What’s at stake: As much as there can be. Win and stay alive in the group, lose and potentially be eliminated.
  • Notable: Colombia became the first South American side ever to lose to an Asian side at the World Cup.
  • FIFA world ranking: 16. ELO world ranking: 15.

Poland (0-0-1, 0 points)

  • Previous result: Lost to Senegal, 2-1, on Tuesday
  • What’s at stake: As much as there can be. Win and stay alive in the group, lose and potentially be eliminated.
  • Notable: Poland has played nine World Cup games against South American sides and none have finished in a draw. (The Eagles are 4-5.)
  • FIFA world ranking: 8. ELO world ranking: 21.

[How watching the World Cup in authoritarian Poland made me a soccer fan for life]

Player to watch

The Poland coaching staff was reportedly impressed by forward Dawid Kownacki’s performance against Senegal as a second-half sub, to the point that he may start against Colombia. The Polish wunderkind scored his first top flight goal at 17, becoming one of five players 17 or younger to score in the country’s highest league. With the success, though, came pressure. Last summer, he told the UEFA site: “At 16, people were calling me ‘the new Lewandowski’, and that was tough to handle, but I changed my attitude, grew up and am now much better at not taking to heart what people say.”

Read more about the World Cup:

World Cup fans’ view: D.C.’s small Polish community will hit ‘cultural center’ in Arlington

Don’t blame Lionel Messi for Argentina’s struggles. Blame the coach.

Germany, pushed to an unfamiliar brink, keeps World Cup hopes alive with stunning goal

Belgium trounces Tunisia and sends a message to the World Cup

El Tri moves closer to advancing with 2-1 win

For Messi and Argentina, Croatia is latest, largest crater in hard World Cup road

FIFA clears U.S. referee after allegation he asked for Portugal World Cup jersey