Hernandez strike sends Colombia through
By Simon Fudge
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The Copa America holders needed a win over their Far East opponents, who only needed a draw, to reach the next stage and a fine goal by Giovanni Hernandez (pictured) secured Colombia's place in the semis.
The South Americans had the brighter start as Francisco Maturana's side looked to take the lead with some early efforts.
Zico's Japan, however, soon came back into the match as Alex saw a free-kick deflect off a Colombia wall in a dangerous position while Hidetoshi Nakata missed a header in a great position in the penalty box moments later.
A see-saw battle saw plenty of action at both ends and Colombia nearly took the lead just before the break as Victor Aristizabal's chip beat Japanese goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki but went over the bar.
The second half saw more chances at either end, as both sides went even closer to scoring.
Naohiro Takahara rattled the post with a fine header after a good cross from the right while Aristizabal went close again to scoring but his point blank strike was blocked by Narazaki.
But with the match poised to go either sides' way, Colombia caught Japan on the break and after receiving a pass in the box, Hernandez scored with a fine turn and shot to give his side a 1-0 crucial lead.
That forced the Japanese to push forward for the all-important equaliser, with Takahara again going close with two more chances.
However, Colombia and keeper Cordoba held strong to go through to the semis, where they are likely to face Cameroon.
Hosts France went on to win Group A with a convincing 5-0 win over Oceania champions New Zealand at Stade de France.
Jacques Santini's men took a 2-0 lead into the break with goals by Olivier Kapo and Thierry Henry.
Djibril Cisse made it three mid-way through the second period and in injury time, goals from Ludovic Giuly and Robert Pires sealed what was a rout over their lowly Australasian opponents in St. Denis.