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FORTALEZA Brazil (Reuters) - Colombia were not helped by the decision-making of referee Carlos Velasco Carballo, tearful playmaker James Rodriguez said after their World Cup quarter-final defeat by Brazil on Friday.
"I'm crying because we gave everything. Unfortunately, the referee didn't help much. Brazil is a good team but we gave everything so we are calm. We wanted to carry on, but we hold our heads high. Thank you Colombia," said Rodriguez, the tournament's leading scorer with six goals.
"We fulfilled all the dreams we had ... It's a shame we have to go."
Brazil, leading 2-0 after defender David Luiz's stunning 69th minute free kick, appeared to be cruising into the semi-finals.
But Colombia, who have charmed the neutrals with their attacking soccer and carefree attitude, came roaring back and scored from the penalty spot after Brazil keeper Julio Cesar brought down Carlos Bacca.
Rodriguez took the responsibility for the spot kick, netting his sixth goal of the World Cup, but there will be no more at this tournament after Brazil clung on for a 2-1 victory.
Many observers felt Rodriguez was not given sufficient protection after he was fouled repeatedly, and questioned the Spanish referee's decision to brandish a yellow card, not a red, at Cesar for the foul.
Veteran Colombia captain Mario Yepes also had a goal disallowed for offside in the 66th minute, and Rodriguez was shown a yellow card shortly afterwards.
Rodriguez, the poster boy of the World Cup who has eclipsed even home favorite Neymar, was inconsolable after the game. But once he had calmed down, he paid tribute to the support back home.
"Thank you Colombia, because you always had faith," he said. "Unfortunately we stop here, but we wanted to carry on. We're sad but we also have to feel proud because we left our skin out there."
Rodriguez became one of only 12 players to score in five consecutive World Cup matches, according to FIFA, and only two have made it six in a row.
Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said he had tried to comfort his inspirational midfielder after the game.
"I tried to calm him down, because personally he deserves huge congratulations," the Argentine told reporters. "He is to be commended, because ... we enjoyed the way he plays and no doubt he will show it to us in the future."
Pekerman said a key to Brazil's victory was the early goal, when captain Thiago Silva bundled the ball into the net from a corner in the seventh minute.
"It was a quick goal, and that is always key," he said. "Brazil had the moment. Colombia slightly lost that sense of play that it had shown so far. We wanted to find a quick equalizer, and that destabilized our usual style of play."
He also felt that the high level of intensity detracted from the soccer in a hard-fought, and sometimes niggly Latin American clash.
"Brazil needed the victory, we aspired always to achieve that victory, and in every play there was a lot of intensity and that sort of interrupted the game," Pekerman told a news conference. "We lost the fluidity of the game because of that."
Brazil meet Germany in their semi-final on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte.
Additional reporting by Luis-Jaime Acosta in Bogota; Writing by Mike Collett-White; editing by Justin Palmer