As the Colombian players left the Mordovia Arena in Saransk, they appeared deep in thought, doubtless reflecting on an unexpected 2-1 defeat by Japan that took many observers by surprise.

Right from the outset, the match transformed into an uphill battle for Jose Pekerman’s charges after the sending off of Carlos Sanchez and the ensuing penalty, which was successfully converted by the Samurai Blue. Despite that early setback, Los Cafeteros’ heads did not drop, and they got back into the match before the break via Juan Quintero’s clever free-kick. However, a resolute Japanese side secured all three points in the second half.

Quintero was still coming to terms with his emotions when he spoke to FIFA.com after the match. “My goal was pretty nice,” he said, nevertheless unable to keep the disappointment at the final result out of his voice. “As far as I’m concerned though, what happens to the team is more important than any individual achievements.”

Did you know?
* Both of Quintero’s goals at World Cups were scored on 19 June. He notched his first in a 2-1 win over Côte d’Ivoire at Brazil 2014, while his second came today, in Colombia’s 2-1 loss to Japan.

The Medellin-born playmaker ran to celebrate his goal with childhood friend James Rodriguez: “He knows that I’ll always give him my unconditional support, and that to experience a World Cup together is a truly wonderful thing.” Quintero is renowned for his strong character and determination, and is bound to bounce back.

Indeed, his very presence in Russia is testament to his never-say-die attitude: after missing out on the entire South American qualifying campaign, he sealed a last-gasp spot in his country’s 23-man squad after impressing with Argentinian heavyweights River Plate, the club he joined on loan from Porto in January.

Against Japan, he was included in the starting XI ahead of Rodriguez, and he repaid his coach’s confidence in him with a well-taken goal. “The trust the coach places in me is very important,” he confirmed. “I just try to repay him on the pitch by playing to my strengths and helping the team.”

The skilful South American tends to demonstrate the same attitude on the pitch as he does off it, never letting his head go down. He was keen to stress that despite today’s disappointing result, Colombia still have a chance to advance from Group H due to Poland’s surprising reverse versus Senegal.

“We’ve got a good team and good players,” he said. “We can secure a place in the next round in the two matches that remain. We’ll have to show our strong character, and be organised and determined.”

For Colombia and Quintero, the real battle starts with the next match against Poland.


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