Colombia goalkeeper, 43, becomes World Cup's oldest ever player in thrashing of Japan
Another Asian team heads home without a win; Colombia face Uruguay in last 16
Colombia reserve goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon wiped away the tears in making World Cup history in a 4-1 victory over Japan on Tuesday as the oldest man to play in the finals at the age of 43.
Mondragon, whose birthday was last Saturday, broke the record held by former Cameroon striker Roger Milla, who played at the age of 42 in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman sent Mondragon off the bench in the 85th minute of their third and final Group C match against Japan with the South American team having already qualified for the last 16 and leading Japan 3-1.
The Colombia-dominated crowd erupted as Mondragon ran on to the pitch with tears streaming down his face and he embraced departing keeper David Ospina warmly as he left.
“The first thing I did was to embrace [Pekerman] and give him a kiss, because for me it was like a prize,” Mondragon said. “He could have made another substitution a lot earlier for another player.”
Both Colombian players and fans had been badgering Pekerman over the last few days to make Mondragon’s milestone happen on Tuesday. But on the eve of the match, the Argentine was reticent to do anything for sentimental reasons.
“We waited for the right time and happily today we could give him some minutes to make the goalkeeper the oldest player in the World Cup,” Pekerman said.
Mondragon was in Colombia’s World Cup squads in 1994 and 1998, the last time the Andean country was in the finals when he started all three games before they were eliminated at the group stage.
Jackson Martinez, who scored twice on Tuesday, said the 43-year-old is the kind of team mate who provides invaluable guidance to a young squad.
“And he is a great goalkeeper who can defend us at any time,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s two second-half goals broke Japanese hearts after the Blue Samurai had equalised on the stroke of half-time to keep their hopes alive in Cuiaba.
"It was a difficult first half, we had lots of opportunities to score but found that their strong defence did a lot of damage," said Martinez.
"In the second half, we were a lot better and were able to show the kind of play we had in previous games.
"I am really happy with the two goals."
Colombian fans decked out in yellow turned the stadium into a home fixture, hugely outnumbering their Japanese counterparts as coach Jose Pekerman made eight changes to his starting line-up.
Colombia took the lead against the run of play when Adrian Ramos was upended by Yasuyuki Konna as he burst into the penalty area, earning the defender a booking.
Juan Cuadrado converted from the spot in the 17th minute to put Colombia 1-0 in front.
Japan's efforts were eventually rewarded when Shinji Okazaki scored with an impressive diving header from Honda’s teasing left-footed cross.With just eight minutes to go of normal time Martinez kept his composure in the box after a rapid break, firing past Eiji Kawashima for his second goal.
Rodriguez then burst into the box with seconds to go, producing a deft left-footed chip over the goalkeeper to seal an emphatic win.
Colombia, ranked eighth by Fifa, are making their first appearance in the World Cup finals since 1998. Their last-16 showing in Italy in 1990 was the only other time they have made it out of the group stage.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse