In one of the best games of the Copa America Centenario to date, Colombia defeated Paraguay 2-1 in Group A to become the first side to progress to the last eight of the competition.
It is the ninth time in the last ten competitions that Los Cafeteros, who won the tournament on home soil in 2001, have advanced beyond the group phase. The last time they failed to reach the knockout rounds was at Venezuela 2007.
The day’s results
USA 4-0 Costa Rica
Colombia 2-1 Paraguay
So dominant were Colombia in the first half of their meeting with Paraguay at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena that it was a surprise the result was still in doubt in the second. Carlos Bacca’s header from a corner and a James Rodriguez strike gave Los Cafeteros a deserved 2-0 lead at the break.
Paraguay were transformed by coach Ramon Diaz’s substitutions, however, with one of them, Victor Ayala, pulling a goal back with a thunderous drive. The chances then flowed at both ends, and not even Oscar Romero’s sending-off gave Colombia the breathing space they craved, with the ten-man Paraguayans laying siege to the Cafetero goal in the closing stages.
In the day’s opening match, USA atoned for their underwhelming display against the Colombians with an emphatic defeat of Costa Rica in Chicago. Clint Dempsey’s early penalty settled the nerves of Jurgen Klinsmann’s side, who were 3-0 up at the break thanks to superb goals by Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood.
Holding firm in the second half, the Stars and Stripes managed to extend their lead thanks to Graham Zusi’s fine finish. To check into the quarters, USA need only a point from their final game, against Paraguay, who need to win and then hope for the result in the other match to go their way. Costa Rica find themselves in a similar position, and must win big against Colombia to have any chance of progressing.
Highlight of the day
The coin toss that preceded the Colombia-Paraguay game did not quite go according to plan. Watched by respective captains James and Justo Villar, Brazilian referee Heber Lopes launched the coin into the air only for it to fall on its side, much to the amusement of the players and match officials.
The procedure was repeated, successfully this time, with Villar choosing correctly and electing which goal to defend, leaving the Colombians to kick off. After starting on the front foot, James and his team-mates then took an early lead and set up a victory that saw them win through to the last eight with a game to spare.
The Colombia captain, who was an injury doubt right up until kick-off, was one of his side’s most influential figures and capped his performance with what turned out to be the winning goal. “I’d play even if I were on one leg,” said the Cafetero No10 after his side’s win.
50 - in setting the hosts on the road to victory over Costa Rica with his early spot-kick, Dempsey scored the 50th goal of his 126-cap international career, his first having also come at Chicago’s Soldier Field, 11 years earlier.
Dempsey is only the second USA player to reach the landmark and now lies just seven goals behind the first, Landon Donovan.
“I apologise for the scoreline but not for the football. I Just think it was one of those games. We were much the better side and we had control, but this game is all about scoring. Our pride has taken a blow but I can’t fault my players. USA were very effective and that’s all there is to it. I feel we did an awful lot of good things, and I’m not going to drive myself crazy about the scoreline.” Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez
Wednesday 8 June, Group B