Colombia were forced to work hard for an opening win at the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015, having to withstand a resurgent Qatar in the second-half of their 1-0 win.
A solitary Joao Rodriguez goal got the South Americans off to the perfect start against the Asian champions, who looked to be cruising to a routine win only for the game to turn on its head after the break.
Both teams spent the early stages feeling their way into the game. But as Colombia grew in confident, suddenly everything clicked. Juan Quintero chipped the ball in to Santos Borre, who laid the ball of perfectly into the path of Rodriguez. His finish was unerring, firing between the legs of Yousof Hassan.
Qatar were struggling to find their way as Colombia dominated possession, and Rodriguez could have ended up with a first-half hat-trick. First, great control and a tight turn saw him blast a shot straight at Hassan, before Jeison Angulo's pass resulted in a mix-up at the back, with the Chelsea man – on loan in Portugal – almost able to capitalise.
The second-half saw things switch quickly though. Felix Sanchez clearly had some choice words and his side burst out of the blocks, putting Colombia on the back foot for the first time. A sublime through-ball, slicing through the right channel, found Amoez Ali. His cut-back fell to the feet of Jassim Al Jalabi, but the resulting effort only ruffled the side-netting.
Three minutes later though, they really should have been level. The same duo were involved again, with good strength from Ali to shield the ball inside the area seeing it shuffled across to Al Jalabi. A tackled denied him the chance at a shot, but it squirmed invitingly to Ahamed Alsadi only for his weak effort to be directed too close to Alvaro Montero.
Akram Afif tested Montero again from range, but delightful control from Alexis Zapata in the Qatari box could have settled the game. He juggled his way through after Borre's lay-off, but his wayward effort did not reflect the skill that created the chance.
Sultan Alkuwari's sliced shot was the closest Qatar came to finding an equaliser as they probed into the closing stages, but Colombia held out for the three points. Qatar will look to get off the mark against Portugal in their next game, while Colombia can secure progression when they meet Senegal.