Colombia secured their place in the knockout stages of the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Rio 2016 after a convincing 2-0 victory over Group B winners Nigeria in Sao Paulo on Wednesday night.
A first-half strike from captain Teofilo Gutierrez and a second-half penalty from Dorlan Pabon ensured the South Americans joined their West African opponents in the quarter-finals.
Needing a win to secure their place in the last eight, it was Los Cafeteros that took an early lead through their captain Gutierrez. Pabon’s fine forward ball from the left flank picked out the unmarked Sporting Lisbon striker at the top of the Nigeria penalty box. Gutierrez then applied a neat volleyed finish to beat Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi and give Colombia a fourth-minute advantage.
The early goal gave Colombia the confidence to attack Nigeria’s backline and create more quality chances. In the 19th minute, Akpeyi denied Harold Preciado’s close-range header before Pabon caused another scare for the Africans after getting in behind the Nigerian defence before shooting wide.
The Group B winners then created chances of their own before the break, with the best of Nigeria’s opportunities coming in the 28th minute when Oghenekaro Etebo put Sadiq Umar’s low cross wide of the far post in the Colombia penalty box. Etebo also tested Cristian Bonilla with a well-hit free-kick that was blocked away by the legs of the Colombia goalkeeper.
Colombia’s determination to reach the knockout stages was reflected in their willingness to extend their lead after half-time. Just after the hour mark, they were rewarded with a penalty after Akpeyi took down Preciado in the Nigeria penalty box. Pabon stepped up to drive his spot-kick home and double Colombia’s advantage.
The South Americans could have had a third goal in the 73rd minute but Preciado was unable to find the target from close range after controlling Gutierrez’s pinpoint cross from the left.
The result ensured Colombia finished second in Group B with five points, one point behind group winners Nigeria. Colombia will play their quarter-final clash in Sao Paulo on Saturday against Brazil, while Nigeria travels to Salvador for their last-eight encounter against Denmark.