Monaco forward James Rodriguez simply keeps getting better in this World Cup, with his latest display inspiring Colombia to a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory against Uruguay in their last-16 tie to set up a thrilling encounter against Brazil in the next round.
The 22-year-old scored both the goals that dispatched Uruguay and has now scored in four consecutive World Cup matches for his country, which have helped immeasurably in securing his sides place in the quarter-finals, despite the absence of the injured Radamel Falcao.
Rodriguez has now elevated his name alongside the likes of Brazil hero Neymar and Argentine saviour Lionel Messi, overtaking them in the race for the Golden Boot.
Uruguay were without their controversial match-winner Luis Suarez, as we all know, for biting Giorgio Chiellini during their last game against Italy. In return, his nation lacked any bite going forward as they looked desperately out of ideas at times without their talisman up front.
They were seemingly content to frustrate Colombia rather than get at them from the off, and as a result the opening half-hour lacked any rhythm or quality. The Uruguayan defence sat incredibly deep, denying the likes of Juan Cuadrado and Jackson Martinez space to run in behind.
It looked inevitable that Colombia would need something special to force the breakthrough and cometh the man, cometh the hour. Rodriguez, one of the most impressive players in the group stages, stepped up to the plate.
A poor Uruguay clearance was headed goal-wards by Abel Aguilar and Rodriguez, after a quick look over his shoulder, chested the ball expertly on the spin before hitting a sweet dipping volley that struck the underside of the crossbar before going across the line – a remarkable strike that is more than worthy of winning goal of the tournament.
After the goal Uruguay were forced to play with more ambition but as a result it left more space for the Colombians to roam free and cause them problems.
Their second goal was a brilliantly worked team move, moving the ball from right to left before playing it out wide to Pablo Armero. The full-back crossed to Juan Cuadrado at the far post, and when most players would have gone for goal, Cuadrado had the awareness to head it back across to find the unmarked Rodriguez, who couldn’t miss. It was his fifth goal at the tournament and Cuadrado’s fourth assist – no one has more.
Rodriguez is also the first player to score in the first four games of a World Cup since Brazil's Ronaldo and Rivaldo in 2002 and we all know about the quality that those two possessed.
In the latter stages of the game Uruguay began to show more urgency as it looked to be slipping away. Edinson Cavani, who was but a distant figure for the majority of the match, made some good runs but his team-mates failed to pick him out.
In Suarez’s absence they just didn’t look as threatening and didn’t have that killer pass or finish when they did get into dangerous areas in the final third.
However Rodriguez’s star continues to shine, and on this evidence, Brazil will not be looking forward to facing him and Colombia in the last eight.
It is the first time in Colombia’s history they have reached this far of the competition and this closely knit group of players will be more than capable of causing an upset against the host nation.
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