Copa America 2016

Colombia through, USA rebound

Bacca and Rodriguez seal the points but Americans must still beat Paraguay to ensure advance

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.

An ecstatic James Rodriguez after putting Colombia 2-0 up against Paraguay in their Copa America Centenario match in Pasadena, California. Victor Ayala pulled a goal back but Colombia hung on to become the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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.



Brazil v Haiti: Singtel TV Ch141 & StarHub Ch213, 7.25am
Ecuador v Peru: Ch141 & Ch213, 9.55am

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2016, with the headline 'Colombia through, USA rebound'. Print Edition | Subscribe