Sao Paulo, June 20: Duvan Zapata's late header saw Colombia edge Qatar 1-0 to book their spot in the Copa America quarter-finals on Wednesday (June 19).
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 were left on one.
Colombia had a sixth-minute header by Yerry Mina correctly ruled out for offside against Roger Martinez.
However, they 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 – they 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 they 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 do enough
Colombia have 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 need 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 continue to show good signs
The guests and 2022 World Cup hosts came from behind to draw with Paraguay in their opener and this time they almost denied Colombia. Qatar were 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 their first two games at back-to-back Copa America tournaments for the first time since 2004.
- They have won 11 of their 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 (June 23), with Colombia meeting Paraguay and Qatar taking on Argentina.