Colombia have knocked out Uruguay to reach the World Cup quarterfinals. Without Luis Suarez, outshining the talented Colombian attack was always going to be a tall task for Oscar Tabarez's men.
James Rodriguez scored on either side of halftime on Saturday to seal a 2-0 victory for Colombia over Uruguay. Jose Pekerman's side continued their magic, earning their fourth straight win at the World Cup.
There was plenty of support for Uruguay's Luis Suarez at the Estadio Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. The Liverpool striker had to watch the match from his home country after biting an Italy player earned him a nine-game suspension and a four-month ban from all football-related activity.
Uruguay were hoping to put the media circus of the biting scandal behind them, with 35-year-old Diego Forlan starting the match in place of the Suarez. But like the rest of Uruguay's front line, bar Edinson Cavani, on Saturday, he failed to make an impact in the match.
Colombia started the game on the offensive, with Juan Caudrado, Teo Gutierrez, Jackson Martinez and Rodriguez combining well to test Fernando Muslera. Only Cavani managed to create trouble for the Colombian defense, and he clearly lacked the extra forward firepower that Suarez provides.
Rodriguez put Colombia in the lead with a beautiful strike just before the half-hour mark. Receiving a pass on his chest from the top of the box, he turned and volleyed towards goal. His shot dipped and bounced in off the crossbar. It was a beautiful effort from a player who has made a strong case for player of the tournament thus far.
Five minutes after the restart, Rodriguez struck again. Left back Pablo Armero charged forward down the flank, sending a ball towards the box. Caudrado did well to head back across goal, where Rodriguez was there to make the simple finish.
The 2-0 scoreline effectively killed off the match. Tabarez removed Forlan, Alvaro Pereira and later Alvaro Gonzalez for the more-attacking Christian Stuani, Gaston Ramirez and Abel Hernandez, but it was too little too late.
Colombia finished the match as deserved winners. They now face a tired Brazil, who went to penalty kicks in their Round of 16 victory over Chile, in the quarterfinals on July 4.
Uruguay, meanwhile, exit the tournament under the shadow of Suarez and what could have been. There were high hopes for Tabarez's side after a semifinal performance four years ago in South Africa and their subsequent Copa America victory. But as with their 3-1 tournament opening loss to Costa Rica, Uruguay were unable to perform without their controversial striker in the side.