Friday 29 June 2018, 10:54

Ospina leads from the back for Colombia

  • Ospina has played the third-most amount of minutes in Colombia's WC history 

  • He played more minutes than anyone in the qualifiers, despite not being a first choice at Arsenal

  • He has now gone two matches without conceding in Russia

By Alejandra Rueda with Colombia

Tension. There is no other word for it. Colombia's Group H match with Senegal was in the balance from start to finish. However, with neither team able to assert their superiority, it was the west Africans who enjoyed the luxury of knowing that a 0-0 draw would be enough to seal their qualification for the Round of 16. On the other hand, while it remained goalless, the fate of Los Cafeteros at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ would depend on the result between Poland and Japan.

It took until the 74th minute for the deadlock to finally be broken. Yerry Mina leapt to head in the only goal of the game, and with that Colombia snatched a precious ticket to the second round right out of their opponents' hands.

Not for the first time, Mina rose to the occasion in Russia. But he was not alone. Throughout the match, and particularly in the closing stages as The Lions of Teranga pressed for an equaliser, David Ospina was rock solid for Colombia. Two first-half saves had already ensured that his team went into the break on even terms. And better was to come later on, when two brave interventions in two minutes by the goalkeeper had the Samara Arena cheering in appreciation.

Firstly, Mbaye Niang's powerful right-footed shot was beaten away by Ospina in the 77th minute. Then, following a corner, he ended up blocking the ball right on the line after Sadio Mane's header ricocheted towards goal off a Colombian defender.

Senegal v Colombia: David Ospina of Colombia makes a save from Ismaila Sarr of Senegal 

Keeping the faith – and clean sheets

"Senegal gave it their all until the very end to claim qualification, but fortunately for us we were able to hold on," the Colombian goalkeeper told FIFA.

In a veritable all-or-nothing fixture for the South American side, Ospina showed his customary leadership and organisation in the Colombia goal. But that is not to say everything was plain sailing. "You suffer a lot at the back, and even more so in such close games," he admitted. "Those of us at the back, the four plus Carlitos (Sanchez), remain focused on helping the team keep a clean sheet. In these tournaments, that's crucial."

Despite the immense responsibility on his shoulders, the goalkeeper did not let the pressure affect his performance. "We had to keep faith in our plan, that we could score at any moment," declared the Colombia No1.

Senegal v Colombia: David Ospina of Colombia makes a save during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group H match between Senegal and Colombia

Mina's goal came just at the right time. The Colombian fans, until then visibly nervous, burst into celebration and went on to cheer their heroes home. But while his team-mates celebrated in front of their adoring public, Ospina did so alone in his six-yard box, in front of the goal that he had so carefully protected.

But do not doubt the joy he felt at having achieved what his team had set out to do. "[I'm] pleased with the attitude, the desire that this team always show," he concluded.

England, spearheaded by five-goal forward Harry Kane, are next up for Los Cafeteros in the Round of 16. Yet the Colombian defence, with Ospina in this sort of form, will be in no mood to fear anyone.