GLENDALE (Arizona) • The Copa America Centenario ended as it began for the United States, with defeat by Colombia.
Still, some of the fight and flair that were so glaringly absent in the semi-final loss to Argentina was back for Saturday's third-place match, allowing the American footballers to restore some self-respect and optimism.
In their fourth appearance in South America's international showcase, fourth place equals the US' highest Copa finish in 1995.
Third is Colombia's best performance since they won the title in 2001, even if Jose Pekerman's team never quite seemed to reach their potential.
AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca scored the only goal as the South Americans won 1-0. It was the second time the US had been beaten by Colombia in this tournament, after a 2-0 defeat in the tournament's opening match in Santa Clara, California.
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann had blamed his side for being "too nice" against Argentina in the semi-finals, when they failed to register a single shot either on or off target and were thrashed 4-0.
However, they were unlucky not to score during the entertaining third-place play-off in Arizona.
Even though Klinsmann's team created several chances, the German later bemoaned the players' inability to finish.
"Ultimately the Colombians were clinical," he told reporters. "They took their one chance in the first half - we couldn't take ours. There were enough chances for us to put one in but we just weren't clinical enough and the players know that."
Still, he was satisfied with what he described as a successful campaign.
"The players realised tonight that if they raise the level of commitment and aggressiveness they can compete with these kinds of teams," he said. "Getting in the final four of such a huge competition is a wonderful achievement and they should be very proud of themselves."
It remains to be seen if Klinsmann will remain in the US post after he was installed as the odds-on favourite to take over the vacant manager's role at English Premier League side Southampton, after former boss Ronald Koeman signed a deal with Everton.
London bookmakers have been thrown into a panic by a "massive" flurry of wagers on the 51-year-old German becoming the new Saints manager.
"There was a massive and sudden move in the betting market odds for Klinsmann," Alex Donohue, spokesman for gambling firm Ladbrokes, said.
"All signs point to bettors expecting an announcement and some news very soon."
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE