Star midfielder James Rodriguez overcame a shoulder injury to lead Colombia to a 2-1 victory over Paraguay and a berth in the Copa America Centenario knockout phase, while the host United States got back on track by routing Costa Rica 4-0.
Colombia grabbed the lead in its Tuesday night Group A round-robin game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena with an outstanding goal by Carlos Bacca, who rose up over defender Miguel Samudio to head home a corner kick by James in the 12th minute.
Less than 20 minutes later, Colombia’s domination of the action led to a second goal, this time with the roles reversed and Bacca orchestrating a play that James finished off with a powerful left-footed blast just inside the right post.
But Paraguay dominated ball possession in the second half and was justly rewarded when Victor Ayala connected on a blast from outside the area that cut the lead to 2-1 at the 71-minute mark.
Paraguay had plenty of time to get the equalizer, but the expulsion of Oscar Romero for two yellow cards proved too much to overcome.
In Tuesday night’s other Copa America Group A round-robin game, the United States bounced back from a 2-0 loss to Colombia last Friday to trounce Costa Rica 4-0 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
A clear penalty at the seven-minute mark allowed Clint Dempsey to open the scoring, while the second and third goals came shortly before halftime, with Dempsey assisting on both of them.
Jermaine Jones made the score 2-0 in the 37th minute when he fired a low shot from just outside the area past goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton, who was replacing injured Real Madrid net minder Keylor Navas.
Five minutes later, Bobby Wood received the ball with his back to the goal, spun around and fired a strike just inside the left post past a diving Pemberton.
The final goal came just before the game’s conclusion, when Graham Zusi, who had come on for Wood in the second half, dribbled into the area and scored on a left-footed strike.
The United States can now book a berth in the knockout phase with a win over Paraguay in Philadelphia on Saturday, while Costa Rica’s chances of advancing are bleak heading into its final match against Colombia.