REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
In the end, Group H was decided by cruelly fine margins. Senegal toiled away against the group favourites in Samara and for long periods they were the better side.
But Yerry Mina’s second-half header, from a Juan Quintero corner, was enough to give Colombia a narrow win which confirmed them as group winners.
Senegal were despondent at the final whistle, understandably so: they had impressed in their first World Cup appearance since 2002, coached by the tactically astute Aliou Cisse, and deserved more than to exit on the basis of fair play.
Colombia, though, were delighted. Victory for them means they will play one of England and Belgium, while Japan qualified as runners up despite having lost 1-0 against Poland.
Here are five things we learned from Colombia’s win over Senegal:
1 Profligacy and inexperience costs Senegal
Senegal had opportunities against Colombia but they were wasteful in the final third and, ultimately, paid the price.
And there was a sense that, having fallen behind, they lacked the composure to work themselves back into the game.
This is a young side with great potential, but inexperience did not help them in these circumstances.
Against Japan, too, Senegal were disappointed not to have won. In the end, they lacked the ruthlessness required to navigate a close group.
2 Mercurial form hinders Colombia
Colombia were impressive with ten men in the first half of their opening game against Japan. But in the second half, after falling behind, they appeared to tire and lose confidence.
Against Poland, Colombia were excellent throughout. The three behind Radamel Falcao in attack - James Rodriguez, Juan Quintero and Juan Cuadrado - were superb.
But Colombia could not reach those heights against Senegal, particularly in the first half. They appeared oddly lethargic, lacking ideas. That was, in part, due to the impressive discipline of their opposition, who restricted them far more effectively than Poland.
Colombia will be aware that more consistency is needed in the knockout stages. They did just enough to beat a resolute Senegal side but Belgium or England will provide an even sterner test of their credentials.
3 Senegal unfortunate to go out
There were question marks over Senegal's defensive capabilities after a 2-2 draw with Japan in their last outing but here they frustrated Colombia expertly for 70 minutes.
Aliou Cisse's side were organised and disciplined, playing in a rigid 4-4-2 that denied Colombia space in key areas.
They had a number of chances to score, too; certainly more than Colombia, who never looked likely to find the net from open play.
Senegal, the last African team that remained in the competition, can consider themselves unfortunate to exit at this stage.
They were handed a difficult group but performed commendably. Two yellow cards, in the end, was the difference between progression and elimination.
4 VAR works effectively again
There has been inevitable controversy surrounding the use of VAR at this World Cup, but on Thursday came an example of the technology at its most effective.
Sadio Mane, having burst through on goal, appeared to be brought down by Colombia defender Davinson Sanchez. The referee pointed to the spot and Senegal prepared to take the resultant penalty.
But replays made it clear that Sanchez had successfully taken the ball with his tackle and the decision was overturned.
Without VAR, the Tottenham defender would have been wrongly punished. The course of the game might have changed, and Colombia would have been left to bemoan the injustice of it all.
VAR has, of course, not always worked so smoothly. That, though, is largely due to the ambiguity surrounding the rules: often what constitutes a foul or a handball is not clear, hence the debates that take place between pundits.
But there can be no complaints over its use in this game.
5 Mina and Sanchez forming formidable partnership
Sanchez, who impressed with Spurs last season, would have been thankful for the introduction of VAR at this World Cup.
The decision to award a penalty was rightly reversed when it was made clear that the 22-year-old had taken the ball.
Sanchez began the tournament with some uncertainty, making a mistake against Japan which led to a goal. But he has since found his feet and formed a promising partnership with another youngster, Yerry Mina.
The Barcelona centre-back is a year older than Sanchez and there were concerns that inexperience might hamper Colombia defensively. But both were impressive against Senegal.
Mina also scored the decisive goal, rising highest from a set piece. Jose Pekerman will likely feel indebted to his two centre-backs.
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