Colombia overcame Mali 2-0 to become the first team to reach the knockout phase of this FIFA U-20 World Cup. The hosts, roared on by a passionate crowd in Bogota, took a first-half lead through Jose Valencia before James Rodriguez sealed victory late on.
Colombia are top of Group A on six points, followed by Korea Republic and France on three apiece, and Mali on zero. Los Cafeteros will take on the Asians in their final first-phase outing, while Les Bleuets meet the African underdogs.
The atmosphere was electric as the two teams entered the field to the vociferous roar of the vuvuzelas. Colombia went straight on the attack, but it took them until 13 minutes to carve out their first chance. Luis Muriel's effort was punched away by Cheick Abdul Cadry Sy, and James Rodriguez fired the rebound wide from a good position.
Muriel could have fed Rodriguez on 22 minutes, but he greedily chose to shoot and failed to trouble the Malian keeper. However, within no time at all the hosts made the breakthrough. Michael Ortega lobbed the ball superbly into the path of Valencia, who side-stepped Sy and shot. A defender managed to block the effort, but the Colombia No20 made no mistake at the second attempt to the delight of the crowd.
That seemed to spark Mali into life. Kalifa Toure blasted a shot high and wide from just outside the box, Kalifa Coulibaly wasted another opportunity, and Adama Toure failed to trouble Cafatero No1 Cristian Bonilla from a free-kick right on the edge of the box.
Within two minutes of the restart, Bonilla had exercised all his athleticism to deny a 20-yard Cheick Fanta Mady Diarra strike that seemed destined for the top corner.
Rodriguez was very much Colombia's danger man, and the Porto playmaker had three shots on goal, the last of which went just inches wide, before a Toure scorcher from distance called Bonilla into action again.
Traore was sent off on 89 minutes, effectively ending Mali's challenge. And just to make sure of a maximum haul for Colombia, Rodriguez tucked home after a neat pass from Javier Calle.
Two matches played; two memorable nights for Colombians.