Ramadel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado and Yerry Mina star as stylish Colombia break Polish hearts

Colombia's forward Falcao celebrates after scoring during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group H football match between Poland and Colombia at the Kazan Arena. (AFP)
Updated 25 June 2018
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Ramadel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado and Yerry Mina star as stylish Colombia break Polish hearts

  • The disappointing Poland became the first European side eliminated from the tournament
  • The South Americans’ bid for a place in the last 16 will be determined by the results from their final game with Senegal

KAZAN: Radamel Falcao, Yerry Mina and Juan Cuadrado scored as stylish Colombia boosted their World Cup last 16 hopes with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Poland on Sunday.
In a match destined to see the loser sent home after the group stages, Colombia overcame a nervous start against Adam Nawalka’s men to move up to third place in Group H, one point behind Japan and Senegal.
The disappointing Poland became the first European side eliminated from the tournament.
“I’m very sorry and very sad about the result, but tomorrow’s another day and we have to come to terms with things,” said Poland coach Adam Nawalka.
“Our players did their best until the end of the game. We lost to a very strong team and this is something we have to accept.
“I extend my congratulations to Colombia.”
The South Americans’ bid for a place in the last 16 will be determined by the results from their final game with Senegal, who drew 2-2 with Japan earlier in the day.
Colombia’s march to the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago came thanks to James Rodriguez’s six-goal tally for Los Cafeteros.
And days after a troublesome calf injury restricted him to a half-hour cameo role as 10-man Colombia stumbled to a 2-1 defeat against Japan, the Bayern Munich midfielder was back to his best.
Starting alongside Juan Quintero and Cuadrado on the right, Colombia’s ultra-offensive starting line-up was a forewarning.
After riding a tense start that forced Mina and then Wilmar Barrios to react quickly to thwart early threats from Robert Lewandowski, Colombia eventually got into their stride.
Cuadrado was wasteful on several occasions when finding space deep on the right flank.
The Juventus winger’s trickery would eventually pay dividends, but it was Falcao — who has dreamed all his life of scoring a World Cup goal — who turned on the style, dancing through the Polish defense to win the corner that led to Colombia’s opener.
Rodriguez’s short corner eventually found Quintero, whose smart through ball back to Rodriguez gave him time and space to curl a perfect left-footed cross that Mina rose to header powerfully past Szczesny on 40 minutes.
Colombia resumed in positive fashion, Cuadrado holding up well to set up Falcao for a first-time drive that sailed over Szczesny’s crossbar.
A Colombia counter saw Falcao’s drive from the edge of the area deflected out for a corner.
Nawalka replaced Dawid Kownacki with the more experienced Kamil Grosicki and the switch almost paid dividends.
Only the bravery of goalkeeper David Ospina saved Colombia from conceding what looked like the equalizer when he rushed out to block from Lewandowski after the Bayern Munich striker did well to get a shot away from a long ball from midfield.
Poland threatened again, but when Lewandowski got his head to a cross into the area he was marked by both Mina and Davinson Sanchez.
Colombia, however, were not to be denied.
When right-back Sanitago Arias found Quintero, the midfielder sliced Poland’s defense apart with a low pass that found Falcao on the run before he beat Szczesny down low with the outside of his right boot.
Five minutes later, Rodriguez produced arguably the assist of the night, drawing several Polish players on the left flank before somehow finding Cuadrado on the run with a superb cross-field pass that the pacey winger tucked away.


Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

Updated 25 min 51 sec ago
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Why Juventus could prove to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s toughest, most rewarding challenge yet

  • Portuguese superstar has moved to Italian giants in deal worth nearly $120 million
  • Ronaldo scored 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid

LONDON: Love him or loathe him, you have to admire Cristiano Ronaldo’s character.
At a time of life when lesser mortals are lured by big paychecks to the likes of Qatar or China, the mercurial Madeiran has opted for what will be his biggest challenge yet at Juventus.
His career over the last decade has been played out under the cloud of the never-ending debate — “Ronaldo or Messi; who is better?”
Thankfully, that circus was quietened somewhat at the recent World Cup. Some flashes of pure brilliance aside, neither player made a big enough impact to lead their respective teams to glory and Messi’s wait for an international trophy goes on.
And, while both players are undeniably in a league of their own, the fact Ronaldo does have a European Championship title under his belt will always tip the argument toward the Portuguese — especially for those who measure greatness in statistics and trophies.
In fairness, Ronaldo’s statistics are mind-boggling. His stint at Manchester United, where he cut his teeth and started to show his potential as a great of the game, was instrumental in the club winning three Premier League titles and their third European crown. His staggering 450 goals in 438 games for Real Madrid saw him become the Spanish giant’s record goalscorer on his way to winning everything under the sun.
But the Premier League and La Liga are leagues in which attacking footballers flourish. With the dawning of wall-to-wall TV coverage, they have both been transformed to entertain the billions of people who tune in every week — and in this day and age, goalscoring superstars win you fans, not defenses.
The art of defending has all-but disappeared and the culture of building a spine through a team has slowly but surely been eroded away. Nobody wants to watch an engrossing, absorbing, end-to-end goalless draw anymore — it is all about 6-5 thrillers.
But not so in Italy.
Serie A, for all its scandals and fall from grace since its heady days of the 1990s, is still an extremely difficult league to win. It is a league in which fans and managers place great emphasis on defending, on building teams from back-to-front (not the other way around) and on the mentality of “you cannot lose if you don’t concede.”
Granted, Juventus have walked Serie A for the past seven seasons; it is to be expected from one of the richest clubs in the world. But rarely have they won it at a canter. Never once have they scored anywhere near 100 goals in a season to win it — unlike Manchester City in last season’s Premier League, or Barcelona and Real Madrid almost every season in the same period.
And not once has Serie A’s top-goalscorer reached the dizzying heights Ronaldo (and Messi) hit in La Liga season after season, nor has it always been a Juventus player claiming the golden boot.
This all points to a monumental challenge for Ronaldo. On paper, he should not find it as easy to score goals in Serie A and with the marked improvement of Napoli, Roma and Lazio recently, nor will it be an easy ride for Juventus to claim an eighth scudetto in a row this year.
So, while Messi prefers to stay in one country and within his comfort zone of the defense-shy Spanish league, if a 30-something Ronaldo succeeds in Italy — or, better yet, guides Juventus to the European glory the fans crave so much — it would be his most remarkable achievement yet.
And it would put the tiresome debate over who is the greatest ever to bed, once and for all.
No contest.