Colombia move on to Copa America knockout stage

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by JACK HAZZARD

With one match remaining in group play, CONMEBOL side Colombia has earned themselves the first spot in this summer’s Copa America knockout stage.

Carlos Bacca and James Rodriguez scored for Colombia in a 2-1 victory over Paraguay. Victor Ayala cut the Colombian lead in half late in the second, but Paraguay could not mount a comeback against the number three ranked team in the world.

The match started off with constant pressure from Colombia and minimal counter attacking opportunities for Paraguay. It only took twelve minutes for Colombia to grab a 1-0 advantage over La Albirroja from a set piece. La Tri captain James Rodriguez curled in a perfect corner to the head of AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca, who headed home a powerful shot past 38-year-old goalkeeper Justo Villar.

Colombia continued to dominate the first half, allowing Paraguay few chances on offense. Real Madrid midfielder James Rodriguez tore apart Paraguay’s midfield, easily dribbling and passing around the Group A side. The Colombian captain went on to score in the 29′ minute as Bacca’s relentless defence in the attacking third led to a wide open chance for Rodriguez, who placed it cleanly on the ground at the back post.

Paraguay had a chance at goal in the 33′ minute as defender Paulo Da Silva headed in a cross from a free kick. However, the goal was called back due to the 36-year-old being in an initial offside position. Following their chance, Paraguay began to show some life, but it wasn’t enough, as the side headed into the locker room down 2-0 at the half.

The beginning of the second half was much of the same. Colombia looked to be in control but Paraguay continued to create threats through set pieces.

In the 70′ minute, 28-year-old Victor Ayala scored Paraguay’s first goal of the tournament with a long distant strike to bring his side within one. Following Ayala’s goal, the feeling in the Rose Bowl changed, resulting in Paraguay outplaying Colombia for most of the second half. However, it went downhill for Paraguay when midfielder Oscar Romero earned himself his second yellow card, resulting in a red. Quickly after the sending off, Colombia countered and hit the post, giving Los Cafeteros the extra energy they needed to finish the match.

A thrilling final ten minutes led to a 2-1 victory for Colombia.

With one match remaining for both sides in Group A, Colombia has already bought themselves a ticket into this year’s knockout stage. On the other side, Paraguay will need to crush the U.S. in their next match as well as hope for La Tri to win against Costa Rica in order to move on to the knockout stage.