Colombia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon hailed coach Jose Pekerman after he made history as the oldest man to ever play in the World Cup finals.
The veteran stopper, who turned 43 on Sunday, came on for the last five minutes of his side’s 4-1 win over Japan in Cuiaba as Colombia finished Group C 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,” Mondragon told Sportal. “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.”
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 after the victory over Japan guaranteed them top spot in Group C.
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.”