Colombia, so impressive in their previous games, looked out of sorts in their final Group C game at the E.J. Esuene Stadium in Calabar. They did, however, manage to come back from a two-goal deficit and earn a point in a 2-2 draw with the talented Africans. The Cafeteros now book direct passage as the section's second-place finishers behind Iran. The Netherlands, who lost to the Iranians in Enugu, will have to wait and see if their three points are enough to see them through.
Colombia came out asking all of the early questions in the first half, but were unable to carve out any real scoring chances. The Gambians roared back, though, after their slow start and took control of the game with a goal in the 19th minute. A tight-angle shot from captain Ebrima Bojang was dropped by Cristian Bonilla and Lamin Sarjo Samateh followed up to slam the ball over the line, giving the scrambling Colombia net-minder a good gash on the head for his troubles.
Gambia, with a new goalkeeper and two players back from suspension, were in the lead for the first time at these finals, and with it came a degree of confidence. Their jinking moves and marvellous interplay had the fans howling with delight. Three minutes after opening the scoring, Samateh tried a free-kick from 20 yards, but this time Bonilla - with a large bandage on his head - was able to keep hold of the try.
The impressive Stiveen Mendoza tried a shot from distance in anger in the 34th minute, but it flew just wide of the post after having Baka Ceesay well beaten. The Colombians looked to be a in a state of shock, however, and they were two down before the half when Ebrima Bojang nodded home a free-kick from inside the area for his second goal of the finals.
The Colombians came out from the break looking to haul themselves back, but the Gambians were still in fighting mood. Samateh's snapshot had Bonilla scrambling in the 53rd minute. And against the run of play, the Colombians finally got a goal back in the 78th minute. Gustavo Cuellar's poor shot from the edge of the box took an almighty deflection and bobbled, almost apologetically, past Ceesay.
The Colombians were awarded a late penalty by Howard Webb with just seconds to go. The first kick was saved by Ceesay, but had to be re-taken after the keeper moved too early. Cuellar made no mistake with the second attempt, putting into the corner to make the score 2-2
The draw wasn't enough for the Baby Scorpions, who now head for home. Iran finish top of the section and go through with second-place Colombia. The Netherlands are in third with three points and a faint glimmer of moving on.