James Rodriguez, who only played as a second-half substitute in Colombia’s opening match against Japan due to injury, was among the starters and created the first and third goal against Poland on Sunday, by giving well-placed chips to teammates Yerry Mina and Juan Cuadrado.
Veteran striker Radamel Falcao scored Colombia’s second goal in the 70th minute which was also the first World Cup goal for the Colombian captain who missed Brazil 2014 due to injury.
The match had been a must-win for both Colombia and Poland after their shocking defeats in the opening round against Japan and Senegal respectively.
With both sides fighting to score for the chance to survive, the first half was full of stoppages due to collisions, and Colombia suffered a blow when Abel Aguilar was forced off by an injury and Mateus Uribe took his place in the 32nd minute.
The change, if anything, seemed to have further boosted the Colombians’ morale, with Juan Cuadrado making attempts at the goal from the right flank at least twice in the next few minutes, giving the Poles a hard time.
The deadlock was broken in the 40th minute when Mina jumped high and nodded home a well-placed cross from James Rodriguez.
Maciej Rybus almost levelled the score for Poland in the 45th minute but the ball went over the bar.
After switching sides, the Colombians emerged with more intents to attack and a higher passing accuracy while the Polish were desperate to level the score.
Falcao doubled the lead for the South American side in the 70th minute by blasting a low shot into the net past the diving Polish goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Just five minutes later, Juan Cuadrado, after meeting a pass from Rodriguez, slotted the ball into the net calmly and sealed the victory for Colombia.
“I think our players really played their best until the very end of the game, but we lost against a very strong team and this is what we have to accept,” said Poland coach Adam Nawalka at a post-match press conference.
“We used the maximum potential that was available. We played in the offensive setting, then we switched to the four defenders formation, we introduced the second striker. Unfortunately, it was not enough,” the coach said, adding that he took responsibility for the loss.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said that both teams had been playing with the pressure to win after their defeat in the opening round.
“Our team played as a unit and the football emerged from this unity. It led to the goals and now we have a good position in this World Cup,” the 68-year-old veteran coach said.
He added that his players had been learning from the past defeat and had grown a lot. “My players are self-critical, they are competitive, they are ambitious. They can overcome the lows and they give us hope,” he said.
This was the first encounter of Poland and Colombia in a World Cup tournament. According to FIFA, Poland is ranked 8th in the world, while Colombia is ranked the 16th.
As Japan and Senegal drew 2-2 in the other Group H match earlier on Sunday, the two sides tie on four points while Colombia have three and Poland are sent packing after two losses.