Captain Catalina Usme scored the only goal to give Colombia a 1-0 win over Jamaica on Tuesday and set up a Women’s World Cup quarter-final clash with European champions England.
Colombia failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup but topped their group in Australia – stunning Germany along the way – and are now into the last eight for the first time.
In front of a raucous crowd in Melbourne, the 25th-ranked South Americans ground down a resolute and physical Jamaica side who had not conceded a goal all tournament.
Colombia’s intense, attacking ethos under coach Nelson Abadia finally paid dividends in the 51st minute when the dangerous Usme got the breakthrough with a composed finish inside the box to unlock a previously impenetrable defence.
It set a cagey game alight and sent the pumping pro-Colombian crowd into deafening delirium.
Colombia will now play England in Sydney on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals after the Lionesses came through a penalty shootout against Nigeria.
Four years after crashing out of the 2019 tournament with three heavy defeats, 43rd-ranked Jamaica, like Colombia, also came to Australia with few expecting them to get this far.
And despite the crushing defeat, they will leave with their heads held high after clean sheets against France, Panama and Brazil.
“I give credit to Colombia, they were better than us tonight,” said Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson.
“But coming in (to the tournament) with no games I feel very happy for the players that they could perform at this level.
“They gave everything tonight. They should be proud of themselves and I’m proud of them.”
Jamaica’s Manchester City striker Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw added: “If you believe and you work hard, anything is possible and we came out here tonight and held our own.”
In front of riotous fans who booed whenever Jamaica touched the ball, both sides pressed early in a stop-start opening that saw several players go down under heavy challenges.
The chances were few and far between in the opening 20 minutes with Colombia’s Diana Ospina having the best – and only – shot on target, but it didn’t have enough power to trouble the keeper.
But the South Americans began to find some rhythm as their supporters urged them on and the opportunities started flowing, with Leicy Santos and Usme both going close.
With Colombia assuming control, Jamaica resorted to some clumsy challenges and Chantelle Swaby and Drew Spence both picked up yellow cards in a tough-tackling half.
The breakthrough came six minutes after the restart with teenage World Cup debutant Ana Guzman pinging a beautiful ball to Usme, who took one touch before side-footing home.
Fired up, Jamaica almost had an immediate reply with Jody Brown’s shot cleared off the line in a frantic goalmouth scramble.
Colombia immediately broke on a counter-attack which nearly led to Real Madrid sensation Linda Caicedo doubling the score.
Behind for the first time at the World Cup and facing the exit door, Jamaica abandoned their defensive posture and threw players forward frantically looking for the equaliser.
Spence almost grabbed it with a header that spun just wide.
But Colombia hung on to keep their World Cup dream alive and almost scored a second at the death when Santos’s header hit the post.