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Rodriguez pays tribute to fans

20 Jun 2014 15:47:11

Rodriguez pays tribute to fans

Colombia forward James Rodriguez believes the massed ranks of Los Cafeteros fans in Brazil can help carry the team on to more World Cup success.

The Tricolor supporters who descended on the capital in droves certainly made their presence felt during Thursday's Group C match against Ivory Coast at the 70,000-capacity Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, where a 2-1 victory put Colombia into the knockout stages.

Monaco midfielder Rodriguez, who headed in the first goal, admits looking up into a sea of red, blue and yellow has proved a real inspiration for Jose Pekerman's squad, who have impressed on their first World Cup finals appearance for 16 years.

"It is incredible, and getting this kind of support gives us a real lift during matches," Rodriguez said on fifa.com.

"I know we are playing in Brazil, but it feels like we are at home. With fans like these, we can go far."

At just 22, big things are expected of Rodriguez, who moved to French club Monaco from FC Porto in a 45million euro (£38.5million) deal last May.

For now, though, Los Cafeteros' playmaker is determined to take things in his stride.

"I just want to help out, and if I have to make a tackle, then I will make one," he said.

"I want to score, I want to set up goals, and I want to win the ball. I will do anything for this team."

Colombia - who beat Greece 3-0 in their opening match in Belo Horizonte, where Rodriguez was also on target - will tackle Japan in Cuiaba next Tuesday guaranteed of qualification following the goalless draw between the Blue Samurai and the Greeks in Thursday's late match.

Pekerman, however, insists there is still work to do.

"It is too soon to talk about winning the group," the Argentine coach said.

"Japan will raise their game and can still be chasing qualification themselves when they play us."

Despite the defeat Ivory Coast, who were unable to force an equaliser following a fine individual goal by Gervinho, still have destiny in their own hands, and would qualify if they beat Greece in Fortaleza.

Much was made of the decision by Elephants' boss Sabri Lamouchi to again start with talisman forward Didier Drogba on the bench, the former Chelsea man having been carrying a thigh problem.

However, Drogba understands collective need must always come first.

He said: "These are the coach's choices and I respect them.

"We showed we were good enough. We conceded two goals from stupid balls, but otherwise played a good game."

The Ivorian Football Federation has passed on its sympathy to both captain Yaya Toure and defender Kolo following the death of their younger brother Ibrahim, at the age of 28.

Speaking after Thursday's match, Lamouchi had been impressed with the peformances of midfielder Toure, who helped drive Manchester City to the Barclays Premier League title.

"I have always been very honest about the state of Yaya's health. He is growing in power, but this is Ivory Coast we are talking about, not Manchester City," he said.

"I got back a player who was tired and injured, but despite that he has been very useful (to our team) and I found him a lot better than in the last match."


PA

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