Colombia held off Paraguay 2-1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California Tuesday night to become the first team to qualify for the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals.Los Cafeteros raced out of the gate with two first-half goals, though fatigue showed in the second half as their South American rivals bravely battled to the end despite the 81st-minute ejection of Oscar Romero.
Colombia got a strong first-half performance from James Rodriguez, who took part in both goals despite being considered doubtful going into the match after suffering a shoulder injury against the United States. On the first goal, Rodriguez took a second corner kick after the shot attempt on the first one was blocked. On the second delivery, the ball hung up long enough for Carlos Bacca to smash into the back of the net.
The second goal Rodriguez finished himself, after Edwin Cardona found him on a trailing run.
Paraguay's substitutes came on in the second half and hauled their team back into contention. Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina made a sensational fingertip save to stop a Romero effort bound for the top corner, but he was powerless to keep out the long-distance rocket uncorked by Victor Ayala in the 71st minute.
It was not quite enough, however, leaving Los Guaraníes needing a win against the US on Saturday to have any hope of advancement.
- 12' - COL - Carlos Bacca (James Rodriguez)
- 30' - COL - James Rodriguez (Edwin Cardona)
- 71' - PAR - Victor Ayala
- Full Box score
- JAMES IS ON FIRE: It came down to a day-of-game decision whether or not Rodriguez would be available for selection in this match, but Colombia are surelly glad he was able to go. The attacker took 73 touches, the most on the team, and the overwhelming majority of them in the attacking half, according to Opta. It looks like the Real Madrid star is just fine.
- FROM WAY DOWNTOWN: Ayala's rocket barely rotated as it screamed through the air, with the replay video getting lots of social media love. That strike meant that four of Paraguay's last seven goals in Copa America play have come from outside the penalty area.
- BOOM SHAKA-LAKA: Colombia are the first team to advance to the quarterfinals, which brings them one step closer to a possible title. If they can pull it off, it would be their second Copa America win, and the first won outside their country's borders.
- COL: Saturday vs. Costa Rica (9 pm ET, FS2, Univision, UDN)
- PAR: Saturday at United States (7 pm ET, FS1, Univision, UDN)