Colombia Defeats Uruguay and Faces Argentina in the Copa America Final

Colombia Defeats Uruguay
Colombia Defeats Uruguay (Credit: Getty Images)

The unbeaten Colombia returns to a Copa America final 23 years after the only title it won at home. The most epic version of the Tricolor, which remains undefeated in its time in the United States, beat Uruguay on Wednesday with a precise header from Jefferson Lerma and will face Argentina this Sunday. With a record-breaking James Rodriguez, who added a new assist, Nestor Lorenzo’s pupils resisted the Uruguayan siege throughout the second half with one man less, after the expulsion of full-back Daniel Munoz. James and Lucho Diaz, the two great Colombian figures, finished the game with training vests, haranguing from the bench the yellow crowd that filled the stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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With two dynamic and intense teams, aggressive in their pressure, the first few minutes were consumed without hardly any damage being done to each other. It was a mirage, a brief period of study. The first attempt was Colombia’s, with a very high shot by John Arias, the Fluminense winger who in Colombia is the glue of the engine room, an all-rounder who defends and attacks. From that moment on, the vertigo was unstoppable. The always elusive Lucho Diaz sent a cross that managed to get past the Uruguayan defenders, but the header by Daniel Munoz, who attacks like a winger with his national team, went very close to Sergio Rochet’s post. Lerma, who returned to the starting lineup after missing the rout over Panama, tried another shot from medium distance in a game of back and forth, with impetus and pace. In the other area, Darwin Nunez escaped Colombian center-backs Davinson Sanchez and Carlos Cuesta on two occasions, but his shots went just wide on three occasions. The Liverpool striker, who shares the attack with Lucho, forgave a fortunate Colombia.

James activated his silky left foot around the half-hour mark, with a precise and curved cross into the heart of the area, but Jhon Cordoba missed his header. It was the Colombian goal attempt, which once again came from the boots of his number ten and captain. On a corner kick, James, who else but him, lifted a ball that landed on the head of Lerma, who jumped past Jose Maria Gimenez and put it in at Rochet’s post. The attacking midfielder, like a field marshal, has six assists in the United States, a figure that no one had ever reached before in Copa America. He had already provided two assists in the debut against Paraguay (2-1), another in the rout of Costa Rica (3-0), and two more in the other quarter-final rout of Panama (5-0), a match in which he also scored from a penalty. “I am very proud of this family. “This is his Cup, without a doubt,” said Luis Diaz at the end of the match, moved to tears. “I have let him know that he has always been my idol,” he said.

Colombia’s happiness didn’t last long. At the end of the first half, Munoz, who was competing to be the best full-back in the Cup, was sent off in tears after receiving his second yellow card for reacting with an elbow to a pinch from Manuel Ugarte. It was a turning point that made the match uphill for the Colombians. Lorenzo, unbeaten since he started coaching Colombia two years ago, had to sacrifice Jhon Arias at half-time to cover Munoz’s full-back position with Santiago Arias.

The adversities continued to pile up with the injury of Richard Rios, the Palmeiras midfielder, and a yellow card for James for complaining to the referee for not stopping play. That sequence forced the Colombian coach to replace almost all of his starting midfielders to maintain the advantage with one man less for the last half hour, which seemed to last forever. Mateus Uribe replaced Ríos, who left on a stretcher, and Kevin Castano gave the captain a rest. Lerma, the rock-solid Crystal Palace midfielder, was the only one of the regular midfielders who remained on the pitch.

It was a war of attrition, with a Colombia that was brave and rolled up its sleeves. Camilo Vargas saved the attempts of Marcelo Bielsa’s Celeste – who wore white – and a shot by Luis Suarez, who came on as a substitute, splintered the post. Colombia, retreating but not giving up the ball, could have easily extended the lead in one of its many counterattacks. In the end, Mateus Uribe had the luxury of stepping into the area, had two unbeatable opportunities, and even hit the crossbar at the last minute, with his shot deflected by Rachet. “The boys who defended have entered well… it is a well-deserved final,” celebrated a rejuvenated James, a great protagonist of the tournament. “We suffered a lot, we knew how to adapt to the game. We know how to compete in adversity,” seconded Davinson Sanchez, imperial from start to finish. Colombia triumphed by resisting the Uruguayan team.

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