Brasilia, Brazil (SportsNetwork.com) - Colombia seized control of Group C by getting a 2-1 victory over the Ivory Coast at the Estadio Nacional on Thursday.
Second-half goals from James Rodriguez and Juan Fernando Quintero helped the Colombians make it two wins from two games in the World Cup thus far, bringing the South American nation to the top of the group with six points.
Colombia ended up clinching a spot in the knockout round later on Thursday following Japan's 0-0 draw with Greece.
"It's easy to play when you've got good footballers," Rodriguez said. "When Juan (Quintero) came on that was the case - he made things easier for us. This game was tougher than our previous one, because Ivory Coast have better players (than Greece) and are physically stronger. That's why these three points feel harder earned. Of course I love scoring, but the most important thing is to do my bit for the team, be it by providing assists or scoring goals."
The Ivory Coast, which battled back in Thursday's affair behind Gervinho's splendid solo effort, remains on three points following its defeat of Japan last time out.
"We didn't deserve to lose, I feel a draw would have been fair," Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lambouchi said. "We made a few untimely errors and paid a heavy price. I'm not going to get too carried away with what went on, there are only some small things to iron out ahead of the next game. We'll now go back to our camp and get plenty of rest, because we'll need to beat Greece by a big margin. I can't see us qualifying any other way."
Teofilo Gutierrez had a great chance to put Colombia in front in the 28th minute of Thursday's contest when Rodriguez slid a low cross to the center of the box, but the River Plate striker scuffed his shot to waste the well-worked move.
Juan Guillermo Cuadrado came within inches of opening the scoring in the 59th minute when he wriggled free of the Ivory Coast defense and got to the end line, but the Fiorentina man saw his powerful shot pushed onto the crossbar by Boubacar Barry, a save that allowed the Elephants to escape danger.
But the Colombians would not be denied as they scored two goals in the span of six minutes to seize control of the match.
The first came in the 64th minute from a corner kick as Cuadrado's delivery was met by Rodriguez. The AS Monaco attacker rose high to win the ball and head a shot past Barry at the near post.
Colombia doubled its advantage in the 70th minute following a giveaway from the Ivory Coast in the center of the park. Gutierrez advanced the ball and slid a well-weighted pass into the path of Quintero, who slotted a left-footed shot past the on-rushing Barry.
It proved to be a crucial strike as the Ivory Coast pulled one back just three minutes later. It was Gervinho who did the honors, capping a weaving run from the left flank by pumping a right-footed shot past goalkeeper David Ospina at the near post.
The Ivory Coast pushed in search of a late equalizer but failed to find one, setting up a crucial meeting with Greece to round out Group C action on Tuesday.
Colombia, already assured of a spot in the Round of 16, will take on Japan at the Arena Pantanal on Tuesday in its Group C finale.