Colombia 1-0 Qatar: James and Zapata late-show helps Colombia overcome Qatar and VAR
James Rodriguez proved the conductor once more for his home nation. Picture: Getty Images?Nelson Almedia. 

Colombia confirmed their place in the Copa America knockout stages after a last-gasp 1-0 win over Qatar in Sao Paulo.

Those inside the Estadio Morumbi had to endure a cagey first half before a more expressive Colombia stole the victory thanks to hulking striker Duvan Zapata

VAR causes chaos once again

For years many have yearned for VAR - a means of avoiding refereeing howlers - and upon its arrival in Brazil, there are as many critics as supporters.

Less than 24 hours before VAR was used to thwart the host nation in the correct fashion. The same, however, cannot be said for Colombia.

Carlos Queiroz’s side had two penalty claims rejected, with referee Alexis Herrera overturning an initial penalty decision.

Abdulaziz Hatem was at the centre of both appeals and had his yellow card rescinded along with the penalty. There can be no arguments about Colombia’s second appeal with Hatem unable to avoid the ball to hand from such close proximity.

However, there was great conjecture involving William Tesillo’s goalward effort which struck the arms of Hatem, ultimately lying in an unnatural position.

Referee Herrera did refer to VAR but decided to stick with his decision.

Not only was there issues about the legitimacy of the decisions, but the time wasted in between each VAR check.

The already-tepid showing was further exacerbated thanks to the long disruptions in play. It’s fair to say Herrera and VAR didn’t have their best night at the Morumbi.

James’ Summer audition receives a lifeline

James Rodriguez is Colombia’s driving force, of which there is no doubt. His club career, however, isn't as smooth.

Unwanted by loan side Bayern Munich and parent club Real Madrid, James must show in Brazil, why he once was the world’s most wanted star.

Here in Sao Paulo, James spurned an incredible chance to give his nation an early lead. Roger Martínez glided down the right before floating the ball directly into James’ path. The ex-Monaco product simply had to guide it on target but failed to come anywhere close.

Throughout the game’s proceedings James showed up in flashes, but for far too often was found waning. As Colombia needed an extra spark, he rarely fired a shot.

Yet with just four minutes of normal time remaining, no.10 floated a delightful ball with the outside of his foot into Duvan Zapata’s path. The hulking centre-forward did James justice and buried the header beyond Saad Al Sheeb.

Qatar got what they deserved

Proceedings in Southeast Brazil started at an awfully slow pace with neither side willing to take a risk. Yet, as the game wore on Qatar grew deeper and deeper, failing to keep the ball for more than a few moments.

The current Asian Cup holders proved stoic in defence and looked to have Colombia’s number. Qatar rarely troubled Colombian keeper David Ospina, forced to make his first save in the 62nd minute.

After a cagey first 45, space became more forthcoming in the second half, and unfortunately, Qatar were too willing in this regard.

They should have known better - giving James far too much room to pick apart their tiring defence. For all their efforts the result seems harsh, but in a major tournament, if a side loses focus, a hefty price is usually paid.

Plenty of spirit and grit unfortunately gone to waste.

Man of the Match: James Rodriguez

A special mention must go to Roger Martinez for his constant presence down the left, but there is only one man for this award.

James continued his hot streak in Colombian colours, assisting four of Los Cafeteros’ last eight goals. There is no doubting his worth to the national side and if he continues to produce moments of magic they will surprise a few this Summer.

What’s next?

Colombia sit pretty top of Group B after six points from two games. Los Cafeteros have already booked their place in the knockout stages but where they finish is still to be decided. They face plucky Paraguay on Sunday evening.

Whereas, Qatar look dead and buried despite still remaining mathematically in the equation. It will be a special moment for many of these players as they line up against Lionel Messi and co. come Sunday. They will be hoping for an Argentine draw, before attempting to pull off a miracle victory.

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