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Colombia hope to keep party going at World Cup as last-16 beckons

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AUCKLAND : Colombia have the opportunity to finish their Women’s World Cup group campaign on a perfect note on Thursday as they look to keep the South American party going at the showpiece event for as long as possible.

Colombia upset South Korea and Germany, both ranked above them, to top Group H and they can become just the fourth of 32 teams in the tournament to finish with nine points when they take on debutants Morocco.

While some matches have been tepid affairs with negligible support in the stands, Colombia’s matches in Australia have resembled home games with loud and fervent support which even caused the mighty Germans to lose their focus.

“We can see that all of Colombia is with us and supporting us… It’s very positive for us and for women’s football in our country,” Colombia’s Leicy Santos told reporters.

“People come to me and say that it’s a party in our matches that you can’t see anywhere else. It’s very moving.”

Morocco may be their easiest opponents on paper but Colombia coach Nelson Abadia warned his squad to exercise caution with five players at risk of suspension and missing their next game if they are booked.

Colombia also received criticism for their physicality against Germany but Santos said that has only encouraged them to reinforce their playing style.

“We never have any ill intention or mean attitude, we go for the ball,” she said.

“European football allows for more play, South American football is a lot more intense. It’s about winning the ball so I’m surprised… It’s football, it’s a contact sport.”

While Colombia need only a draw to advance as group toppers, Germany will go through with a point too if the South Americans do not lose and they were given a boost with defender Marina Hegering returning from injury.

Despite two defeats South Korea are no pushovers with Englishman Colin Bell, who coached several clubs in Germany, at the helm.

“They don’t press very often but… Colin is a fantastic coach and he might surprise us,” Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg said.

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