Duvan Zapata's late header saw Colombia edge Qatar 1-0 to book its spot in the Copa America quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Zapata's 86th-minute goal was enough for Carlos Queiroz's men in the Group B encounter after they had struggled to consistently threaten a well-organised Qatar side. Radamel Falcao started on the bench and James Rodriguez's impact was limited, at least until the latter set up the winner with a sublime pass.
Zapata met James' wonderful pass and headed into the far corner to move Colombia onto six points, while Qatar was left on one. Colombia had a sixth-minute header by Yerry Mina correctly ruled out for offside against Roger Martinez.
However, it should have gone ahead in the 13th minute, only for James to steer a header wide after a great Martinez cross from the right. Colombia controlled possession — it had 68 per cent in the first half — but struggled to penetrate Qatar's defence.
The lively Juan Cuadrado forced a comfortable save from Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb from distance, while Stefan Medina sliced an effort into the side-netting. Colombia thought it had a penalty for a handball by Abdulaziz Hatem to begin the second half, but the decision was reversed after a VAR review.
Set-pieces continued to look like Colombia's most likely avenue to a goal as Mina headed a corner wide in the 56th minute. Martinez squandered one of his side's best chances just after the hour-mark, cutting inside after a good pass from James but shooting low and straight at Al Sheeb.
Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina was tested twice before Al Sheeb made another fine stop to deny Martinez. But Queiroz's men would find their goal, James' wonderfully chipped pass met by Zapata for the match-winner before the latter missed a glorious chance to complete his brace.
What does it mean? Colombia does enough
Colombia has now made it out of the group stage at the past four editions of the tournament. Despite that, there is plenty of room for improvement going forward.
Colombia needs Falcao to fire
After a subdued performance against Argentina, Falcao was left on the bench to start the encounter against Qatar. Colombia struggled to have an impact in the attacking third before Zapata's second goal of the tournament. Falcao's last international goal not from the penalty spot came in October last year and the nation's all-time top scorer must step up.
Qatar continues to show good signs
The guest and 2022 World Cup host came from behind to draw with Paraguay in its opener and this time it almost denied Colombia. Qatar was well-organised and looked threatening on the break at times during the second half, almost doing enough to earn another point.
Key Opta Facts:
- Colombia won its first two games at back-to-back Copa America tournaments for the first time since 2004.
- It has won 11 of its 13 Copa America meetings with non-CONMEBOL nations.
- Ospina has kept eight clean sheets in 11 Copa America games, the joint most for the country with Pedro Antonio Zape.
- James created seven chances against Qatar, the most by a Colombia player in a single game in the past four Copa America tournaments.
- Zapata's two goals at the Copa have both come in the 86th minute.
The teams complete their group-stage campaigns on Sunday, with Colombia meeting Paraguay and Qatar taking on Argentina.