Ivory Coast’s forward Gervinho (L) celebrates scoring during Group C football match between Colombia and Ivory Coast at the mane Garrincha National stadium
Colombia maintained South America’s strong start to the World Cup on Thursday, downing the Ivory Coast 2-1 to stay on course for a place in the last 16.
A day after Chile eliminated defending champions Spain; Colombia produced a fine attacking display to down the powerful Ivorians in Group C
Second-half goals from Monaco starlet James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero fired Colombia into a 2-0 lead before Roma striker Gervinho pulled one back at Brasilia’s National Stadium.
Colombia, making their first appearance at the World Cup since 1998, could seal their second round berth later Thursday if the result of Japan’s match with Greece goes their way.
The Japanese and the Greeks face a high stakes encounter in Natal at 2200 GMT. With Japan outmuscled by Ivory Coast 2-1 and Greece thumped 3-0 by Colombia on Saturday, defeat for either side is likely to be fatal.
With Colombia firmly on course for the knockout rounds, South American rivals Uruguay will attempt to resurrect their campaign against England later Thursday in Sao Paulo.
As expected, Uruguay confirmed that Liverpool striker Luis Suarez would return from injury to face England for the Group D battle at the Sao Paulo Arena.
England captain Steven Gerrard has warned his players they face a “terrible” summer if they lose.
Gerrard, who went through disappointing World Cup campaigns in 2006 and 2010 — when England lost 4-1 to Germany — said he underlined the high price of failure in a special address to the squad.
“Going into this game, (they have) to realise it could be a terrible long, frustrating summer if we don’t get it right on Thursday,” he said.
“There is no hiding place for a player when you go out of a tournament. You go home earlier than you expect. It can be tough as a player and it can take an awful long time to get over it.”
After losing 2-1 to Italy, defeat to Uruguay would probably consign England to one of the earliest World Cup exits in their history.
Off the pitch meanwhile, FIFA confirmed it had opened an investigation into reports Mexico supporters’ chanted anti-gay slogans during their country’s World Cup game against Cameroon.
“We have opened proceedings against Mexico for improper conduct of supporters. As the proceedings are ongoing we are not in a position to comment further,” said FIFA spokeswoman Delia Fischer.
FIFA also said it was embarrassed that scores of Chileans managed to gate-crash the Maracana Stadium before their team’s match against Spain on Wednesday, vowing to tighten security to avoid a repeat.
A crush of fans, many wearing their country’s red jersey, shattered a door to the iconic Rio de Janeiro stadium’s media center and swarmed into internal corridors before the match, leading to 87 arrests.
“It is embarrassing,” FIFA’s security director Ralf Mutschke said of the incident.
“I think we have to protect journalists and the media and there’s no doubt about it, we also have to protect the fans.”
He said the invasion by ticketless fans — the second such incident at the stadium, which will host the July 13 final — had made organizers rethink security measures at Brazil’s 12 match venues.