There would appear to be something to the epithet of Ivory Coast.

The side known as the Elephants are now endangered in Brazil after shots fired from James Rodriguez and then Juan Quintero subjected them to a defeat in Group C. The African side could now require to beat Greece in their final group match to progress.

A fine solo goal from Gervinho would at least steal back some hope ahead of that match, although by then their opponents appeared too relaxed to take much notice. Colombia have played two matches at these finals and won both. They left Estadio Nacional aware that they could reach the next phase of the tournament were Japan to prove unable to win against the Greeks last night.

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These are the equations which can be mulled over by teams which have earned the right to put their feet up following impressive performances in their two fixtures. The South Americans had not featured in a World Cup finals since 1998 and were last night on the verge of strolling casually into the next round.

"We have had two wins with players who are playing their first World Cup," said Jose Pekerman, the Colombia head coach. "It's very positive for us but we can't get ahead of ourselves. We never lack that courage and valour."

And attacking flair. Colombia made the more positive start in Brasilia, with Teofilo Gutierrez shooting wide from the edge of the penalty area and Juan Cuadrado watching as his shot was blocked desperately by Ivory Coast defender Didier Zokora.

It took 23 minutes for Ivory Coast to put their best foot forward. Typically, it was Yaya Toure - a player worthy of gracing a major finals - who embarked on powerful run and then released the ball Gervinho, but the forward was hustled quickly off the ball.

That moment should have been punished decisively just seven minutes later when Colombia raced off on the counter attack. Teofilo Gutierrez received the ball in the box and, having appeared initially to be offside, he proceeded to make a hash of his shot, with the ball rolling well wide of a post.

Serge Aurier, the Ivory Coast full-back who has been linked with a move to Arsenal at the conclusion of these finals, was similarly unable to endear himself to those watching as his shot from the edge of the penalty area was saved comfortably by David Ospina. The Colombia goalkeeper would appear just as relieved early in the second half when referee Howard Webb dismissed animated claims for a penalty from a delegation of Ivory Coast players.

Gervinho had gone down under pressure from defenders but it was his compatriot who would be punished by the match officials, when Zokora was booked later on for a late challenge on Juan Cuadrado. The erstwhile Tottenham Hotspur midfielder will miss his side's final match against Japan as a result.

He was perhaps entitled to feel a little sorry for himself but the opportunity did not last long. The match was reinvigorated as first Wilfried Bony attempted a bicycle kick for the Africans and then Cuadrado's shot was pushed on to a post by goalkeeper Boubacar Barry.

He was unable to prevent the Colombians from scoring after 64 minutes, though, with Monaco forward Rodriguez heading sharply into the net following a corner. The South Americans scored a second goal just six minutes later, with Gutierrez first cantering forward with the ball and feeding a pass to Quintero. The Porto forward duly carried the ball forward to the edge of the penalty area before drilling a low shot beyond Barry.

"It was very tough, but the team showed class and personality, and we scored at the right time," said the midfielder. "At the end, we gave them the ball, but that's normal because you can't overrun a team like Ivory Coast. We ended tight and we stuck to our tactics."

Ivory Coast peered at each other looking for a response. What they got was a goal. Gervinho - a player who is still acknowledged as a disappointment while at Arsenal - collected the ball on the left side of the pitch and weaved into the penalty area, hurdling three challenges before clipping a shot inside the near post which Ospina got a hand to but could not keep out.

The African side were lifted by the goal and sought an equaliser with alacrity, with substitute Mathis Bolly just unable to guide a diving header on target before substitute Salomon Kalou pushed another shot straight at the goalkeeper. Didier Drogba then came close to connecting with a long through ball during stoppage time, but Ospina was out quickly to clear.

"We need to recover and be proud of ourselves," said Sabri Lamouchi, the Ivory Coast head coach. "I feel we lost unfairly and we need to fight for a victory against Greece. A very experienced Colombia team waited for us to make mistakes and we did make mistakes."