Colombia is dancing on at the World Cup, while Poland is heading home.
Colombia's dynamic attack, which was so prevalent during the 2014 World Cup, showed up in Kazan, Russia, where a Colombia-heavy crowd was treated to a 3-0 win over Poland. The result, coupled with Japan's earlier draw vs. Senegal, was enough to eliminate Poland, which was the seeded team in this group at December's draw.
Two lackluster performances sealed Poland's fate, though, with Robert Lewandowski & Co. reduced to the role of spoiler against Japan in Thursday's finale.
As for Colombia, Yerry Mina's header seized the lead in the first half, while goals from Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado sealed the result. James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero were influential in pulling the strings, and the performance will give Senegal plenty to think about entering their showdown next week, with a spot in the last-16 on the line.
For a second straight match, Colombia was forced to deal with adversity mere minutes into the match. After Carlos Sanchez's third-minute red card in the opener, goalkeeper David Ospina appeared to suffer a foot or ankle injury in the fourth minute after making a catch off a looping header from Lewandowski. He was narrowly tripped and went to ground immediately, holding his ankle while remaining on the ground for a couple of minutes. After receiving treatment, he stayed on.
The match unfolded as a wide open and physical one. At one point, Lewandowski appeared to intentionally stomp on Mina's hand, though he wasn't disciplined for it.
The teams attacked back and forth, and Colombia had its best early chance in the 24th minute. James put his body on the line to move the ball forward while getting clattered into in the midfield. It spring Radamel Falcao, who tried to back-heel to Juan Cuadrado for the chance in the box, only for it to be put out for a corner.
While Ospina remained on for Colombia, it was forced into an injury substitution at the half-hour mark, when Abel Aguilar had to come off. He was replaced by Mateus Uribe, as Colombia's central midfield remained in flux after the suspension to Sanchez.
Colombia took the lead in the 40th minute after applying waves of pressure. The decisive moment came off a short corner, with James curling a short cross to Mina in the center of the box. The Barcelona center back headed home to give Colombia a 1-0 lead.
Ospina came up big in the 58th minute on a play that started out of nothing. A simple, long, direct ball over the top found Lewandowski, who controlled it beautifully as he got in behind the defense. The Colombia goalkeeper came off his line to close down the angle and then made the save, keeping it 1-0.
That moment looked even bigger a little more than 10 minutes later, when Colombia doubled its lead. It came through Falcao, who, at 32, scored the first World Cup goal of his career. He was picked out by Juan Quintero, who had a tremendous and influential match pulling the strings, and the Monaco forward did the rest to beat Wojciech Szczesny from close range to make it 2-0.
The lead became 3-0 soon after. James played an incredible early cross, springing Cuadrado for a breakaway, and the midfielder didn't miss, giving Colombia an unassailable lead and pushing Poland to the brink of an exit.
Poland pushed to get onto the board, which could have impacted Colombia's goal differential should a tiebreaker come into play, but Ospina came up big on a couple of occasions, all while fending off the foot injury that seemed to be plaguing him from the opening minutes. At one point he had called for a sub, but with Colombia having exhausted all three already, he was forced to play through the pain for the final 10 minutes.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeepers: Bartosz Bialkowski (Ipswich Town), Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus)
Defenders: Jan Bednarek (Southampton), Bartosz Bereszynski (Sampdoria), Thiago Cionek (SPAL), Kamil Glik (AS Monaco), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warszawa), Michal Pazdan (Legia Warszawa), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)
Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (VfL Wolfsburg), Jacek Goralski (Ludogorets Razgrad), Kamil Grosicki (Hull City), Grzegorz Krychowiak (West Brom), Rafal Kurzawa (Gornik Zabrze), Karol Linetty (Sampdoria), Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk), Maciej Rybus (Lokomotiv Moscow), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli)
Forwards: Dawid Kownacki (Sampdoria), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli), Lukasz Teodorczyk (Anderlecht)
Manager: Adam Nawalka
Goalkeepers: David Ospina (Arsenal), Camilo Vargas (Deportivo Cali), José Fernando Cuadrado (Once Caldas)
Defenders: Cristian Zapata (Milan), Dávinson Sánchez (Tottenham), Santiago Arias (PSV Eindhoven), Óscar Murillo (Pachuca), Frank Fabra (Boca Juniors), Johan Mojica (Girona), Yerry Mina (Barcelona)
Midfielders: Wílmar Barrios (Boca Juniors), Carlos Sánchez (Espanyol), Jefferson Lerma (Levante), José Izquierdo (Brighton Hove & Albion), James Rodríguez (Bayern Múnich), Abel Aguilar (Deportivo Cali), Mateus Uribe (América), Juan Fernando Quintero (River Plate), Juan Cuadrado (Juventus)
Forwards: Radamel Falcao (Mónaco), Miguel Borja (Palmeiras), Carlos Bacca (Villarreal), Luis Fernando Muriel (Sevilla)
Manager: Jose Pekerman