How They Got Here: Colombia
Drawn into Group A with the United States, Paraguay and Costa Rica, Colombia's journey through the Copa America Centenario comes full circle with a rematch of their opening day fixture against the U.S.
June 3rd | USA | Santa Clara, California: Los Cafeteros got off to a quick start at Levi's Stadium against the host nation. Eight minutes into the opening match of the tournament, Edwin Cardona picked out Cristian Zapata from a corner kick, who sent a thundering volley past Brad Guzan. As halftime drew near, Colombia were awarded a penalty kick after DeAndre Yedlin handled the ball in the area. Real Madrid's James Rodriguez slotted the ball home and Colombia held off the U.S. in the second half and began the tournament with a 2-0 victory.
Though not playing their best game, Colombia coach Jose Pekerman shouldn't be surprised to see a rematch against the USA. After the game, he had this to say about the MNT.
"I won't say this was a perfect example of their ability, but the U.S. team has evolved from what we saw in Brazil."
June 8th | Paraguay | Pasadena, California: In a match that followed the MNT's 4-0 win against Costa Rica, Colombia knew three points against Paraguay would be enough to qualify for the quarterfinals with a game left to spare. Los Cafeteros again wasted no time finding themselves ahead after a 12th minute strike from Carlos Bacca. James Rodriguez, after an injury scare against the U.S. almost kept him on the sidelines, scored his second goal in as many games to give Colombia a 2-0 lead heading into the break.
Paraguay did manage to make things interesting in the second half, as David Ospina was beaten for the first time all tournament when Victor Ayala scored in the 71st minute. Colombia kept their cool and saw out a 2-1 victory, becoming the first team to reach the Copa America Centenario knockout phase.
June 11th | Costa Rica | Houston, Texas: With first place on the line, Pekerman decided to rest a few starters for their final group stage match against Costa Rica. Needing only a draw to clinch first place, Colombia found themselves down almost immediately when Johan Venegas scored Costa Rica's opening goal of the tournament in the second minute.
Though continuing the theme of early goals for Colombia, Frank Fabra equalized five minutes latet to put the Colombians on top of the group for the time being. But after a Fabra own goal and Celso Borges strike, Colombia were down 3-1 with only 30 minutes left to play. Marlos Moreno brought one back for Los Cafeteros, but Costa Rica were able to hold on for the final 15 minutes, consigning Colombia to second place in the group.
After the match, Pekerman defended his team selection.
"We cannot draw conclusions," the Colombia boss said. "The bet was risky with some guys and we hope it doesn't cost us."
June 17th | Peru | Foxborough, Massachusetts: Pekerman's decision turned out not to be too costly in the end, as Peru upset Brazil in Group C to set up a showdown with Colombia in New England. In a pretty even match, the sides duked it out for 90 minutes and played to a 0-0 draw. In accordance with Copa America rules, the match went straight to penalties.
James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado converted the first two penalties for Colombia as their Peruvian counterparts did the same. On the third kick, David Ospina saved Miguel Trauco's, setting up Sebastian Perez who put Colombia ahead 4-2. Christian Cueva stepped up and hit it over the bar, and Colombia advanced to the semifinals.
June 22nd | Chile | Chicago, Illinois: Fifteen years after their only Copa America triumph, Colombia faced a dangerous Chile side and hoping to make it back to the final for the first time since 2001. Coming off a drab 0-0 draw against Peru, form wasn't exactly in Los Cafeteros' favor. Chile was coming off a 7-0 thumping of Mexico in their quarterfinal and are the defending Copa America champions.
La Roja's scoring form carried over from the start as they took a 2-0 lead within the first 11 minutes. Colombia could not find their scoring boots for the remaining 80 minutes and fell short of repeating their Copa America title-winning performance of 2001.