Saturday’s penultimate Copa America Centenario match for third place features the two teams that advanced to the knockout stages from Group A - the U.S. Men's National Team and Colombia. On the opening day of the tournament, Colombia beat the MNT 2-0 in Santa Clara, Calif, but the U.S. ended up topping the group with six points and a +3 goal differential. The match kicks off Saturday, June 25 at 8 p.m. ET (FX, Univision, UDN) at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. Before the action gets underway, here are five things to know about Los Cafeteros.
Los Cafeteros Soccer History
The 1990s were arguably the most successful period Colombian soccer has experienced. Los Cafeteros qualified for all three FIFA World Cups during the decade (1990, 1994, 1998), advancing to the Round of 16 in 1990. From there, however, Colombia hit a World Cup draught. They failed to qualify for the 2002, 2006 and 2010 tournaments.
Los Cafeteros returned to the World Cup in 2014, eager to make up for lost time. Colombia won all three of its group stage matches, knocking off Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan with ease while making a name for itself with its choreographed goal celebrations. The Colombians made their first appearance in the quarterfinals, where they fell to host country Brazil.
Colombia has had success in Copa America. Los Cafeteros won the tournament in 2001, and have placed third and fourth twice. In last year’s Copa America, Colombia’s only win in the group stage came against Brazil, where it scored its lone goal of the tournament. Los Cafeteros advanced out of their group, but were eliminated in their next match by Argentina in a penalty shootout.
Colombia vs. MNT
The U.S. MNT has faced Colombia 18 times since their first meeting in 1961. The MNT hasn’t had great success, as its record against them is 3-11-4. Its last win was a 3-0 victory on Mar. 9, 2005, at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif. The last time these teams met was on the opening day of Copa America Centenario. Cristian Zapata finished off an Edwin Cardona corner kick in the eighth minute to give Colombia an early lead. Then three minutes before halftime, James Rodriguez converted a penalty to double the lead.
The two have played each other in significant tournament games before, including a FIFA World Cup and multiple Copa Americas. In the 1994 World Cup held in the United States, the MNT famously defeated one of the tournament favorites 2-1 in its second group stage match.
This summer will not be the first time the teams have met in the third-place match. At the 1995 Copa America in Uruguay, the MNT and Colombia both made it to the semifinals. Both lost their respective match, resulting in a final game for third place. Los Cafeteros won handily, 4-1, and the MNT left Uruguay in fourth, marking its best ever Copa America finish.
The two shared a group at the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela. They squared off in the final group match playing for pride, as no matter the outcome neither team would advance. Colombia claimed a 1-0 win.
Additionally, Alejandro Bedoya’s father and grandfather played soccer professionally in Colombia.
Looking Ahead to Russia
Los Cafeteros are No. 3 in the FIFA /Coca-Cola World Ranking and are currently tied with Chile for third place in CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifying with 10 points through six matches. In addition to the U.S., Colombia beat fellow CONMEBOL opponents Paraguay and Peru in the group stage and quarterfinals, respectively.
Despite losing to fifth-ranked Chile in the semifinals, a third place finish would be a strong showing for Los Cafeteros especially headed into a pivotal matches this September in World Cup Qualifying. Colombia host Venezuela who are coming off a surprising quarterfinals finish this summer before heading deep into the Amazon to play Brazil in Manaus.
Who to Watch
Colombia boasts players from many of the world’s top leagues and is one of the Centenario’s most talented teams. In charge of its prolific offense are midfielder James Rodriguez and forward Carlos Bacca who have combined to score three goals in the competition.
Over the past two years, the 24-year-old Rodriguez has become one of the game’s top offensive threats. He burst onto the scene during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, finishing the tournament with six goals, earning the Golden Boot for most goals scored and Puskas Award for most outstanding goal in the tournament. After the World Cup, he joined Real Madrid. He’s made 78 appearances for one of the titans of club soccer, netting 25 goals. In total, he’s scored 16 times in 47 appearances for his country including twice this summer. He scored from the spot against the U.S. and scored the game winning goal against Paraguay.
Outside of Colombia, Bacca suits up for AC Milan in Italy. Last season for Milan, he scored 18 goals in 36 matches. He was effective in Colombia’s recent World Cup qualifiers as well, scoring three times in six outings and added the opening goal in the group stage victory over Paraguay.
Arsenal shot stopper David Ospina has been instrumental in Colombia's success this tournament. He kept a clean sheet in the opening match against the U.S. and then made a huge save during the penalty shootout against Peru in the quarterfinals.
The Country and Culture
With more than 46,000,000 citizens, Colombia has the second largest population in South America. Located in the northwest corner of the continent, it is the only country in the region with both a Pacific and Caribbean coast.
The Andes, the longest mountain range in the world, begin in Colombia. In addition, the country is home to a substantial portion of the Amazon Rainforest.
Colombia’s chief export is coffee, and it is one of the top five coffee producing countries in the world. Much of the country’s coffee is grown on its mountain slopes. Colombian coffees differ in flavor from region to region because the country contains so many unique microclimates.