PASADENA, Calif. – Despite being hobbled by a bad shoulder, Colombia captain James Rodriguez powered his team to a 2-1 victory over Paraguay to guarantee passage into the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario.
At the Rose Bowl on Tuesday night, Rodriguez was named the Man of the Match due largely to a standout first half that included an assist and a goal. The attacking midfielder's performance was all the more impressive when Colombia coach Jose Pekerman admitted that Rodriguez's shoulder had been seriously injured during Colombia's 2-0 win over the United States on Friday and that the player could even potentially require surgery to fix the issue.
During Tuesday's game, however, Rodriguez showed no ill effects of the hurt shoulder, and the Colombians appeared set to comfortably cruise past Paraguay with a 2-0 first half lead.
Paraguay, however, came out of the locker room swinging. The Paraguayans did not sit back and instead attacked Colombia's defense with reckless abandon for the second 45 minutes, which made for an entertaining game. After coming close to scoring on a number of occasions, Victor Ayala finally netted for the Paraguayans and unsettled the Colombians.
After the game, Pekerman tipped his hat to his opponents for being the better side in the second half. Ultimately, though, Colombia claimed the victory and took its points total to six points after two matches, which made Los Cafeteros the first team to qualify for the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario.
Along with Colombia, Group A features the United States, Costa Rica and Paraguay. The U.S.'s 4-0 beating of Costa Rica on Tuesday means that the host nation can advance with a win or a draw against Paraguay, assuming Colombia beats Costa Rica. However, if the United States loses to Paraguay, Colombia and Paraguay will advance to the quarterfinals.
Tuesday's game was the second Copa America at the Rose Bowl after Brazil and Ecuador played to a 0-0 draw on Saturday. Mexico and Jamaica will play at the same venue on Thursday, which will end Pasadena's involvement in the special soccer tournament featuring North and America's strongest sides.