King James can propel Colombia all the way

COMMENT: The Monaco man was summoned from the bench when his nation needed him and made the difference as los Cafeteros rounded out the group stage with maximum points
By Peter Staunton in Cuiaba

Jackson Martinez scored two, Faryd Mondragon bid farewell but neither could outshine the brilliance of James Rodriguez.

Colombia finished with nine points out of nine in Group C thanks to this 4-1 win over Japan but they were not as comfortable as the final scoreline would suggest. Shinji Okazaki nodded the Japanese level on the stroke of half-time after Juan Cuadrado's penalty.

Jose Pekerman had to do something. Having rested eight players he turned to a bench containing most of his first team and picked the No. 10. That decided the outcome. A thrilling half of football later and Martinez took the man of the match trophy and Mondragon departed in happy tears. Nothing would have been assured were it not for James Rodriguez.

"We saw all his qualities," says Fredy Guarin. "Now we know what he can do in complicated matches like today."

The Monaco man is coming of age in front of our eyes at these finals and there is a spectacular efficiency about how he plays the game. Like Mondragon he didn't start. The two changes represented the past, present and future of this brilliant Colombia team. James came on at half-time and his first touch brought electricity from thousands of Colombians present.

It didn't take him long to truly hit his stride. Good work from Santiago Arias carried the ball into the box where James lurked. He shoved the ball into the path of Jackson Martinez, taking three defenders out with a sideways stab of his left foot. Martinez made no mistake.

It was a similar story not long after. James picked up possession and carved Japan open with a brilliant  through pass. Martinez sidestepped the goalkeeper and rolled the ball home. Colombia home and dry. Japan on their way home.

In the last minute Rodriguez demonstrated his burgeoning confidence in front of goal with a moment that was nothing less than stunning. He made Maya Yoshida look like he was playing a different sport, turning him this way and that inside the box, before lofting the best finish of these finals skilfully over the head of Eiji Kawashima.

He danced and drank in the adulation - totally at one with the expectations on him. There is joyfulness in his game. There is ruthlessness. There is efficiency. Colombia have a deep squad and many options up front but the form of their own King James will be key to progress.

"He's strong," says team-mate Juan Camilo Zuniga. "We all know the quality he has. But not just him. In the national team we have players all over the pitch who can make the difference."

Up next is a pretty ordinary looking Uruguay side who will surely be without a suspended Luis Suarez. The signs don't bode well for them. Rodriguez has the capability to stamp his special mark on every match he plays. Mondragon's night was one to warm the heart. James Rodriguez - that was one to stop it.