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Playmaker James Rodriguez inspires Colombia to brink of last 16

BRASILIA -- Another superb performance by playmaker James Rodriguez who scored one goal and created the other inspired Colombia to a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast in their World Cup Group C match and to the brink of the last 16 on Thursday.

Rodriguez, scoring his second of the tournament, and substitute Juan Fernando Quintero, with his first international goal, struck in the second-half while Gervinho replied with a superb individual goal, his second of the finals, for the African side.

Colombia, making their first appearance at the finals since 1998, will qualify for the second round if the match later on Thursday between Japan and Greece ends in a draw or if the Greeks beat the Blue Samurai.

Ivory Coast are still firmly in the hunt for a place in the last 16 for the first time in three appearances as they opened with a 2-1 win over Japan.

“It was a tough match like all of those at the World Cup,” said Rodriguez, who has more than made up for the loss of leading striker and fellow Monaco team-mate Radamel Falcao through injury.

“It is terrific to have taken three points off our major rival who are extremely physical and know how to play good football.”

Colombia's coach Jose Pekerman said he was delighted with their campaign as they bid to reach the second round for only the second time in five appearances at the finals.

“It gives me great pleasure that we have come through a tough encounter and we have six points from six,” said the Argentine, who guided his homeland to the quarter-finals in 2006.

“It is super that Colombia can compete at this level with players competing in their first World Cup finals.”

His Ivory Coast counterpart Sabri Lamouchi did not appear prepared to accept the result.

“We did not deserve to lose the game,” said the former France international.

“Colombia has a lot of experience and they waited for us to make mistakes. We lost unjustly in my opinion.”

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Colombia's James Rodriguez #10 celebrates with teammate Juan Cuadrado after scoring his side's first goal at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, Thursday, June 19. (AP)

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