Japan vs Colombia World Cup 2014: James Rodriguez stars to transform the game

Japan 1 Colombia 4

It was Jackson Martinez who scored twice, and claimed the official man-of-the-match award, but there is no disputing who Colombia’s player of the tournament is after their impressive 4-1 win over Japan.

James Rodriguez came off the bench to completely transform the game, and is increasingly coming into his own. He is so far the only player to have scored in all three games - although Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Clint Dempsey and Andre Ayew can follow him - having followed his strikes against Greece and Ivory Coast with a deft lifted effort against the Japanese.

Yet, as sublime as that was, it was his creative play under pressure that arguably surpassed it. Rodriguez set up Martinez for both of the forward’s goals with two passes that were each delightful in different ways. The first, after 55 minutes, displayed clever footwork. The second, on 82 minutes, involved a through ball that opened up the entire pitch. Martinez, for his part, then did superbly to cut inside and curl it around the goalkeeper.

 

The performance illustrated the completeness of Rodriguez’s attacking play - and that in just half a match - particularly after he out-jumped Didier Drogba to score a header in Colombia’s previous game. The 22-year-old would seem to have it all, not to mention a host of clubs suddenly wanting him. While it would be wrong to say the Monaco forward has announced himself at this tournament, he does appear to be using it to move his game - and his career - up several levels.

Rodriguez became Colombia’s most expensive ever player by moving from Porto to the Ligue Un club last summer for around £35m, but could probably command even more after the World Cup.

There have already been murmurs from France he would have been open to a move before the tournament, and tentative recent interest from Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United could become much more serious.

Right now, Rodriguez’s immediate interests involve pushing Columbia so much further in this World Cup. They could also make history. The South American side have never got beyond the second round, and only reached that stage once, in 1990.

Now, Uruguay block their path. Luis Suarez is likely to be missing. Rodriguez will be centre stage.

It said much that, by the end of a group in which Colombia won all of their games, no-one was mentioning the injured Radamel Falcao. There’s a new star.

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