Jose Pekerman lauded his Colombia players for carrying out his instructions to a tee as they kept alive their last-16 prospects and knocked Poland out of the World Cup with a 3-0 victory.
The 2014 quarter-finalists were fighting to avoid an early elimination after their surprise loss to Japan and responded with a brilliant attacking display, with Yerry Mina, Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado all finding the net.
Cuadrado, man-of-the-match James Rodriguez and Juan Fernando Quintero were all superb and Pekerman praised his men for delivering in the high-stakes contest.
“We always had as our goal to play the way we played tonight,” he told a press conference.
“From beginning to end we stayed true to that style. We understand that Poland were a tough rival and we had to focus. We were playing with the pressure of having to win. There was no room for any mistakes.
“We shouldered that responsibility fully but with creative football. We managed to impose this quality, this type of football that we have. ”
Prior to answering any questions Pekerman made a point of mentioning defender Carlos Sanchez, whose early red card for handball against the Japanese had contributed to Colombia’s loss.
Pekerman did not expand on reports Sanchez has received death threats in the wake of his dismissal but did confirm he was “deeply affected” by the fall-out.
“This victory is dedicated to Carlos Sanchez because he has had a very hard time these last few days,” Pekerman said.
“We achieved this victory and I wanted to share it with him. I’m expressing it personally but it’s something that all of the squad feels.
“The player was deeply affected by this matter. I think we all understand that football really is something else – football ultimately is a game we play with a lot of responsibility, effort, hard work and dedication.”
The victory was also memorable for Falcao’s goal – his first in a World Cup – given the 32-year-old had missed the tournament four years ago through injury.
“This is one of the greatest joys that we receive,” Pekerman added.
“He is a symbol of the national team, a symbol of Colombian football. We always hope that he can score and be fit as he was today.
“We want to help him as a team so that he can show all his skill and shine. I think that the fact he scored was extremely important, not only for today but for future matches.”
Poland became the first European nation eliminated in Russia, with Robert Lewandowski, the continent’s leading scorer in qualifying, once more starved of service.
“We lost against a very strong team and this is what we have to accept,” boss Adam Nawalka said.
“The match was pretty level until we lost the first goal. We knew Colombia are a very, very difficult and dangerous opponent. In their squad they have very good players who play for well-known clubs.
“We wanted to counter-attack and play fast but Colombia were better.”