Copa America 2016

Dempsey helps USA win group

Clint Dempsey celebrates after scoring the winner for the US against Paraguay. The Americans' 1-0 win mean they enter the knockout stage as winners of their group, potentially avoiding a quarter-final showdown with tournament heavyweights Brazil.
Clint Dempsey celebrates after scoring the winner for the US against Paraguay. The Americans' 1-0 win mean they enter the knockout stage as winners of their group, potentially avoiding a quarter-final showdown with tournament heavyweights Brazil.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Forward's 51st international goal seals Americans' last-eight passage after Colombians falter

PHILADELPHIA • The United States battled to a 1-0 victory over Paraguay to ensure their place in the Copa America Centenario's last eight as group rivals Colombia crashed to a potentially costly 3-2 defeat by Costa Rica.

A first-half strike by Clint Dempsey earned a precious win for the hosts which ultimately ensured Jurgen Klinsmann's football team finished on top of Group A after Colombia's loss.

The combination of results means the US will now play the runners-up of Group B, possibly avoiding eight-time Copa winners Brazil, who are favourites to win their group.

While Dempsey was the goal hero, the US victory owed everything to a disciplined defensive display after they were reduced to 10 men with DeAndre Yedlin's dismissal early in the second half.

Paraguay spent long periods camped in the US' half after the defender was sent off for collecting two yellow cards in a matter of minutes. But a gutsy rearguard action from the Americans saw them hang on for a gritty win.

Klinsmann - whose position has come under renewed scrutiny during the tournament - hailed his side's discipline.

"It was a fantastic performance," the German said. "The way they grinded it out, the way they kept their shape and their discipline and the way they worked for each other was outstanding. They all deserve a huge, huge compliment.

"I'm thrilled for the team because they really deserved it. It's a huge statement. This team have fantastic spirit."

Klinsmann refused to criticise Yedlin for his red card. "He just lost his head for a second," the coach said of the 22-year-old. "He'll learn from that mistake."

The defeat showed up Paraguay's worst Copa America display since 2001, the last time they failed to progress beyond the group stage.

With the US winning, all eyes turned to Houston to see if Colombia, who beat the US 2-0 in their opening game, would secure the point they needed to top Group A.

Colombia coach Jose Pekerman's decision to make 10 changes to the side that had beaten Paraguay in their second game backfired as Costa Rica, determined to bounce back after their 4-0 rout by the US on Tuesday, attacked from the get-go.

Costa Rica took the lead in the second minute, when midfielder Johan Venegas curled in a sublime shot likely to be a contender for goal of the tournament.

Colombia hit back in the seventh minute through Frank Fabra, but Costa Rica went back in front just after the half- hour mark when Fabra could only divert a Venegas cross into his own net. Celso Borges then gave Costa Rica a two-goal lead.

Marlos Moreno pulled one back for Colombia but it was too little, too late for Pekerman's side.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2016, with the headline 'Dempsey helps USA win group'. Print Edition | Subscribe