PASADENA (California) • Colombia became the first side to reach the quarter-finals of the Copa America Centenario, while the United States thumped Costa Rica 4-0 to get their campaign back on track.
Goals from AC Milan's Carlos Bacca and Real Madrid star James Rodriguez secured a 2-1 win for Colombia over Paraguay on Tuesday, in front of a vocal crowd at the Pasadena Rose Bowl in California.
Victor Ayala gave Paraguay hope after pulling a goal back on 71 minutes, but Colombia held on for the three points which assured them of a top-two finish in Group A and a place in the last eight.
They need only to draw with Costa Rica on Saturday to guarantee first place, leaving them a potentially easier quarter-final against the runners-up from Group B, which contains Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti and Peru.
After a tepid loss in their opening game put them under threat of elimination, the US needed a riposte against Costa Rica on Tuesday. They delivered a renaissance, with Clint Dempsey scoring his 50th international goal.
The same players who had disappointed against Colombia last Friday delivered in Chicago.
Michael Bradley was a potent midfield puppeteer, setting up a forward line that now worked in unison rather than isolation. The attack had sly ideas and a serrated edge.
Overall, there was an assertiveness, a strutting self-belief, that had been entirely absent in the 0-2 loss to Colombia.
Dempsey opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood struck just before half-time to effectively settle the contest. Substitute Graham Zusi added a fourth three minutes from time.
While much of the improvement must be attributed to facing weaker opponents, this was a resolute and fluent performance, which bodes well for coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Only hours before kick-off, United States Soccer Federation chief Sunil Gulati had fuelled fresh speculation about the German's position, telling journalists: "No one has iron-clad job security."
While the victory will count for nothing if the US lose to Paraguay in their final Group A encounter in Philadelphia on Saturday, few would bet against them now.
Klinsmann, who reiterated his belief that this is the most difficult group in the tournament, said: "It took a little bit to kind of grind ourselves into the game in the first 15-20 minutes, but once the first goal came, we kept pushing for the next one and then pushing for the next one."
Peru could join Colombia in the quarter-finals if they manage to defeat Ecuador in Glendale, Arizona, in Group B this morning (Singapore time).
In another game, five-time world champions Brazil face an intriguing match-up against Caribbean minnows Haiti in Orlando, Florida.
"If we win, it will be the greatest miracle that God has produced in football," Haiti midfielder Jean-Marc Alexandre said.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN
Brazil v Haiti: Singtel TV Ch141 & StarHub Ch213, 7.25am
Ecuador v Peru: Ch141 & Ch213, 9.55am