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Rodriguez rocket earns Colombia Brazil clash James relaxed about quarter-finals

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 29, (AFP): James Rodriguez knocked Luis Suarez out of the headlines with an exquisite goal as Colombia beat Uruguay 2-0 on Saturday to set up a World Cup quarter-final against hosts Brazil. The pre-match build-up had been dominated by talk of Suarez’s four-month ban for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, but by the final whistle at Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana, there was only one name on everyone’s lips. Having previously illuminated the group phase, Rodriguez broke the deadlock shortly before the half hour with a breath-taking strike, chesting the ball down and volleying home from 25 yards. The 22-year-old Monaco playmaker added a second early in the second half, sending him to the top of the scorers chart with five goals and confirming his emergence as one of the players of the tournament. His goals took Colombia into the quarter-finals for the first time, meaning the northern Brazilian city of Fortaleza will turn completely yellow when Jose Pekerman’s side play the hosts on July 4.

Uruguay’s fans sported Suarez masks and brandished banners in support of their wayward star, who flew home to Montevideo on Friday, while his shirt was hung up in the Uruguay changing room. But they were to endure a night of disappointment on their return to the Maracana, scene of the country’s seismic 2-1 win over Brazil in the deciding game of the 1950 World Cup. Diego Forlan replaced Suarez for Uruguay, while Colombia coach Pekerman sprang a surprise by selecting two centre-forwards in Jackson Martinez and Teofilo Gutierrez. Although Martinez lined up on the left flank, there was no lack of ambition to Colombia’s play.

Juan Cuadrado and Juan Zuniga set the tone with purposeful early runs at the Uruguay defence, with one of the latter’s raids culminating in a low shot that Fernando Muslera gathered at the second attempt.
Uruguay were content to cede possession to their opponents, sitting deep on the edge of their own box, but their defences were breached in the 28th minute by a goal of jaw-dropping splendour. After Abel Aguilar saw a chipped pass cleared back to him, he headed the ball up to Rodriguez, who was standing just outside the penalty area. The Colombia number 10 controlled the ball on his chest, turned, and unleashed a magnificent dipping volley that crashed in off the crossbar.

Rodriguez, who has now scored in each of his last six international games, celebrated with appropriate abandon, screaming ‘Vamos!’ at the hordes of jubilant yellow-shirted fans in the front-row seats.
Uruguay set about trying to wipe out the deficit, but Edinson Cavani’s free-kick narrowly cleared the bar and Alvaro Gonzalez was foiled by a full-length parry from Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina. Colombia doubled their lead five minutes into the second half with a fine team goal. Pablo Armero’s deep left-wing cross was headed down by Cuadrado and Rodriguez swept home his second of the night from close range.

Ospina kept Uruguay at bay thereafter, parrying shots from Gonzalez, Cristian Rodriguez and Cavani and saving bravely from Maxi Pereira. Uruguay’s frustration began to tell, with substitute Gaston Ramirez booked for a wild kick at Armero. Four years after reaching the semi-finals in South Africa, Uruguay’s World Cup ended at the scene of their greatest triumph. Meanwhile, World Cup sensation James Rodriguez said that Colombia would feel “no pressure” against Brazil in the quarter-finals after inspiring his side to a 2-0 victory over Colombia. Colombia will now face the hosts in Fortaleza on July 4 and Rodriguez believes that his side’s four consecutive wins in the tournament mean that Brazil will have to take them seriously. “There’s no pressure,” said the Monaco playmaker.

“Obviously we have to watch Brazil closely. They have very good players and they play good football, but they’ll have to watch us closely as well. “We have good players and we can be dangerous. I think it’s going to be a beautiful match.” Rodriguez’s man-of-the-match display prompted Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez to liken him to Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, but he was modest in his own assessment of his performance. “I only want to help the team,” said Rodriguez, who is now the tournament’s top scorer with five goals. “I’m playing at a good level. We’re scoring goals and I’m happy because of that.” Although Brazil needed penalties to overcome Chile after a 1-1 draw in their last-16 tie on Saturday, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said that his side would not underestimate them.

“Having come through such a difficult match as Brazil did, it always raises the level of confidence because they are already in the quarter-finals and they’re approaching the final stages,” he said. “We know the potential that Brazil have. It will be a great match. They are two countries that interpret football in the same way.” While Brazil will enter the game as favourites, Pekerman believes that his well-drilled side have the weapons to make the hosts feel uncomfortable. “At this level, there are a lot of elements that have to be balanced out,” he said.

“That’s why teams need players who are focused so that they clearly understand their roles and don’t give away space. “They need to have the tactics to be able to change things in the course of a match and they also need the psychological side, which plays an important part in football. “Sometimes a team with a lot of potential, if they don’t find the result and they need to win, they can’t play so brilliantly. “So the competition becomes interesting because a team with less individual stars can disturb the balance of the other team.”

Pekerman also said that it would be unfair to simply dub the game a clash between Rodriguez and Brazil superstar Neymar. “In terms of individuals, I always say that this has to do with the team,” he said. “All players give their best when the entire team is working well, and our team performances are even. “James is scoring important goals, but (Juan) Cuadrado is also playing at a great level, as are the strikers, the wingers, the full-backs. We also have a great goalkeeper (David Ospina). “We’re playing very well as a team and we’re going through a good moment, but we know the match will be hard and that Brazil have the capacity to cause us problems.”

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