One team wasn’t expected to advance to the quarterfinals and ended up winning the group. The other looked nearly certain to finish atop their group and unexpectedly fell to second.
Now, Group B winners Peru and Group A runner-up Colombia are set to meet in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals, with a berth in the semis against Mexico or Chile on the line.
Best loss ever?
With advancement to the quarterfinals already secured, Colombia made the calculated move to rest their starters on Saturday against Costa Rica. The decision didn’t exactly pan out, as Los Cafeteros were upset 3-2 by the already-eliminated Ticosto fall behind the US and finish second in Group A.
That looked bad on its surface, but things seem to have actually turned out alright for Colombia. If they’d won the group, Colombia would’ve had to travel to Seattle to take on Ecuador, who are currently in second place in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. By finishing second, they got an extra day of rest and a trip to the New York City area – which has one of the largest Colombian populations in the country – to take on a Peru team that’s not as tough as Ecuador on paper.
Will James stay hot?
He only played the second half of the loss to Costa Rica, but James Rodriguez proved one of the players of the tournament in Colombia’s first two matches. The Real Madrid midfielder scored Colombia’s second goal in their 2-0 win against the US on June 3, then added an assist and another goal in their 2-1 win over Paraguay.
He should be fully rested for Friday’s match at MetLife. That’s a scary thought for Peru, who will have to figure out a way to lock down one of the most dangerous players in the entire tournament if they want to move to the semis.
Another semi for Peru?
Perhaps the surprise team of the tournament, Peru got to the quarterfinals in very controversial fashion. With the game tied 0-0 in the 75th-minute, Peru’s Raul Ruidiaz appeared to bat in an Andy Polo cross with his hand to give Los Incas a 1-0 win over Brazil and propel them into the Knockout Round.
They weren’t favored to get here, but the quarterfinals are somewhat familiar territory for Peru. They’ve finished in third-place at both of the previous two Copa America tournaments, beating Bolivia in the quarters in 2015 and taking out Colombia in the 2011 tournament.
Whether or not we get a repeat of that 2011 match-up will depend a lot on forward Paolo Guerrero. The leading scorer in the 2011 and 2015 tournaments, Guerrero scored the lone goal in Peru’s 1-0 win against Haiti in the group stage and provided two assists in their 2-2 draw against Ecuador. He’ll need to be at his best again if Peru are to spring another surprise on Friday night.