sport

Colombia veteran hails coach

Veteran Faryd Mondragon thanked coach Jose Pekerman for giving him the "best birthday ever" as Colombia beat Japan 4-1.

Goalkeeper Mondragon made history on Tuesday night as he became the oldest man to ever play in the World Cup finals.

The experienced shot-stopper, who turned 43 on Sunday, came on for the last five minutes of his side's final Group C match in Cuiaba as Colombia finished in top spot.

It meant Mondragon eclipsed the record held by Cameroon's Roger Milla, who was 42 at the 1994 finals in the United States.

"Jose Pekerman convinced me to continue playing," said Mondragon. "I will never forget that.

"If it wasn't for him, I would have retired two years ago.

"I feel privileged to be here, it was my best birthday ever."

Pekerman said: "Faryd has been a very important player for us. Since he joined the national team, he has played a very important role in Colombia.

"With Faryd, we have a goalkeeper who has experience, who has already played at a World Cup and other players are pretty young, so it's good that he can share his experience with those younger players.

"Today we could give him the possibility to play a couple of minutes so that he can be recorded as the oldest goalkeeper at a World Cup."

Midfielder James Rodriguez enhanced his growing reputation with an influential display as a second-half substitute as Colombia set up a mouthwatering clash with fellow South Americans Uruguay at the Maracana on Saturday.

The Monaco playmaker was initially rested with qualification assured but his introduction at half-time added a touch of class as his side raced clear after the break.

Rodriguez and another of their key performers in Brazil, Juan Cuadrado, played integral parts with the latter converting an early penalty before the former's immediate impact saw him set up two goals for Jackson Martinez before scoring one himself.

Japan's hopes of taking second place and sneaking into the last 16 were raised briefly when Shinji Okazaki equalised with the final touch of the first half but they lacked the threat of their opponents in the final third and it ultimately cost them.

Martinez was pleased to contribute to the winning effort.

"I'm very, very happy for this great blessing," he said.

"All of Colombia is supporting so that things go better."