Despite a proud showing from the Japanese, the Colombians were too much to handle on this day. James Rodriguez again proved why he is being so highly touted after scoring one and assisting two in the forty-five minutes that he played. Jackson Martinez added another two after Juan Cuadrado completed an early penalty. The Colombians will now prepare for their Round of 16 matchup against Uruguay which will take place on June 28th in Rio de Janeiro.

It was a must win game for the Japanese as they faced a Colombian team that had already booked their place in the next round in the final game of Group C play. The Colombians had a few notable absences in the starting lineup, most notably James Rodriguez, Mario Yepes and Teofilo Gutierrez. There were no real surprises in the Japanese lineup as Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda both featured for the “Samurai Blues.”

From the get go it was clear that Colombia had no plans to sit back and protect their goal. They began the game pushing men forward, nearly creating a few chances in the opening five minutes. Japan had a good opportunity on 7’ to get an early goal as they were awarded a free kick from about 30-yards out, but Keisuke Honda’s shot couldn’t get passed the Colombian wall.

The Japanese continued to press up the pitch early looking to prove a point that they were not going to exit this World Cup quietly. Their passing looked good and their runs creative, it was clear from the first ten minutes that this was going to be an open game. And against the run of play, it was the Colombians that were awarded a penalty after Yasuki Konno brought down Adrian Ramos. It was a clumsy challenge from Konno as Ramos was going away from goal and had no real support with him. 

It was Juan Cuadrado who stepped up to the spot as he made no mistake on the ensuing penalty blasting the ball directly down the middle of the goal. It has to be said that the Japanese were the better team in the ten minutes before that as they faced the challenge of having to come back from a goal down against a Colombian side that only allowed one goal in their previous two games.

Kagawa almost got one back for Japan on 26’ but his shot lacked any real conviction and Ospina was able to knock it wide for a corner. The Japanese were forced to push men forward, which made it very easy for Colombia to try and counter. It was a do-or-die tactic for the Japanese as the Colombians comfortably sat in front of goal, waiting to pick their opportunities to push men forward.

The Colombians had a great chance on 42’ to put the game on ice but Jackson Martinez missed a wide open chance from 12-yards out. And how he would regret that as Japan got the equalizer with the last kick of the half. Huge goal from Shinji Okazaki as he beautifully headed home a pristine cross from the right flank. Japan now go into the interval with a much easier task than it seemed they would have a few minutes earlier. 

The start of the second half saw James Rodriguez and Carlos Carbonero come on in favor of Jaun Cuadrado and Juan Quintero as it was clear that the Colombians were still going after the three points. Rodriguez immediately made an impact after coming on, looking dangerous on more than a few occasions in the opening five minutes.

Rodriguez, this time the provider, again showed why he is so highly touted at the moment. His in swinging ball on 54’ failed to be met by a Colombian attacker, but the quality of the pass should not be overlooked.

And Rodriguez again was involved on 55’ as the Colombians regained the lead when Jackson Martinez’s shot was deflected into the back of the net after Rodriguez provided the assist.

It could very well have been the dagger for the Japanese, but they responded well continuing to look dangerous moving forward. They had a huge chance on 59’ to tie the score when the Ospina completely whiffed on a cross from the left flank. Lucky enough for the Colombian keeper was the fact that a Colombian head got to the ball before an oncoming Yoshito Okuba.

The Japanese continued to press, trying to find an equalizer as the clock continued on its way towards ninety minutes. They almost got the goal they were looking for on 65’ after a nice build up play on the right flank found an oncoming Okuba whose shot went just inches over the crossbar. The Colombians were doing well to sustain the pressure though, still trying to pick the right time to go on the counter.

And on 72’ the Colombians found their chance, but failed to put the ball on frame after it pin-balled through the Japanese penalty area. Rodriguez and Martinez had their chances after Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima was sent scrambling across his goal line but neither of them could muster the wobbling ball towards Kawashima’s goal. 

But as the Japanese continued to pressure, Colombia finally put the finishing touches on their Group C play when James Rodriguez perfectly slotted Jackson Martinez behind the Japanese backline for him to finish off his second goal. It was a beautiful finish from Martinez, but the pass from Rodriguez was inch perfect.

And on 89’ minutes James Rodriguez put his talent on full display making it 4-1. In the words of Taylor Twellman, “This kid is special, talented and confident.” Trying to describe his goal wouldn’t do it justice. You will just have to wait and see it here. What an incredible talent that has just left me speechless.

To put the finishing touches on a magnificent group stage, Colombian coach brought on goalkeeping legend Faryd Mondragon. It was quite a moving moment that capitulates why we all love this sport.

At the end of ninety minutes, Colombia had completed their sweep of Group C while Japan had to deal with the cold reality that they would be going home early. The Japanese played their hearts out, but the talent within this Colombian squad is world class. Colombia will now go on to face Uruguay on June 28 at the Maracana