Ecuador defeated Costa Rica 3-0 to grab second place in Group C. Costa Rica also advanced as one of the best four third-place teams. The top two in each of the six groups advanced automatically.
In another Group C game, Spain demolished Australia 5-1 to finish atop the group with a perfect record.
Guatemala beat Croatia 1-0 to finish third in Group D, advancing as one of the best third-place teams. In another Group D match, Nigeria downed Saudi Arabia 2-0 to finish on top. Saudi Arabia was second.
Play in the knockout stage is set for Tuesday and Wednesday: Cameroon vs. Mexico, Portugal vs. Guatemala, Colombia vs. Costa Rica, Argentina vs. Egypt, Nigeria vs. England, Spain vs. South Korea, Brazil vs. Saudi Arabia, France vs. Ecuador.
Spain, Nigeria, Brazil and Argentina go in as favorites, with host Colombia expected to contend. Argentina has won this event a record six times, and has won five of the last eight.
Brazil has won it four times and was runnerup to Ghana two years ago.
Host Colombia won its first three group matches and has the advantage of playing at home with most of the venues at altitude, including Bogota at 8,600 feet.
England advanced despite drawing its three group matches by the same scores — 0-0. The English are fielding a weakened team with at least 30 players who were eligible kept away from the tournament by early training with their English clubs.
In Ecuador’s victory over Costa Rica, Edson Montano found the net after just 82 seconds and Marlon De Jesus scored twice—in the 13th and 69th minutes.
“We still must get better,” Ecuador coach Sixto Vizuete said. “I hope that the victory does not change the mentality of the team. We haven’t won anything yet.”
Spain showed why it is a favorite to match the senior team’s World Cup triumph a year ago in South Africa.
Striker Alvaro Vazquez scored three early goals against Australia. Sergio Canales and Sergi Roberto also scored. Coach Julen Lopetegui rested many of his starters including Rodrigo, Oriol Romeu, Isco and Cristian Tello. He was also without injured starting goalkeeper Aitor.
“We are very satisfied with what we have achieved,” Lopetegui said. “We were first in the group, played well and used all players in this first phase.”
Guatemala was the biggest shock. The Central Americans qualified as one of the best third-place teams despite winning only one match and finishing with a minus-10 goal difference. Had Guatemala and Croatia played to a draw, New Zealand would have advanced from Group B.
Marvin Ceballos scored in the 81st minute to give Guatemala the victory over Croatia. Ceballos scored when he chipped the ball past keeper Matej Delac.
Croatia lost all three matches and was eliminated.
Nigeria, which had already advanced, finished in first place in Group D with the victory over Saudi Arabia. Ahmed Musa and Olarenwaju Kayode scored goals in each half for the winners.