Jose Pekerman - shouting instructions - Copa America
USA Today Sports

Colombia handle weight of expectations to advance to Copa America semis

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – There was pressure to win, pressure that came from within and from the majority of the 79,194 fans in attendance at MetLife Stadium Friday night. 

And if not for the heroics of goalkeeper David Ospina, Colombia might have wilted under that pressure.  

Instead, Colombia advances to the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario after beating Peru 4-2 on penalty kicks after the teams were scoreless after 90 minutes.

“Today what may have weighed us down at one point is that Colombia faced more of an obligation. That’s how I perceived it,” Colombia coach Jose Pekerman said after the game. “We came into this match facing a greater obligation, looking to do many great things and maybe in some cases we weren’t able to deliver that in terms of speed, in terms of some poor decisions that were made, to not deliver a ball with enough simplicity. That’s something we need to correct.”

There was a golden chance in the 21st minute when James Rodriguez had Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese beat. But the Real Madrid star’s shot caromed off the post.

“Above all, especially in the first half, Colombia could have scored and maybe we would have been talking about a different kind of match now,” Pekerman said. “Sometimes a goal opens up a match and allows you to unleash a team that sees itself obliged to score a goal and maybe that instills more confidence. Out of desperation to score a goal, sometimes that will lead us down the wrong path.”

Pekerman said his team tightened up as the match went on and succumbed to the strong Peruvian defense.

But Pekerman said he wasn’t surprised by what la Blanquirroja brought.

“They showed us what Peru can deliver,” Pekerman said. “We had to keep that in mind. We had a lot of trust in the players in conducting themselves in the game, but Peru did mark the players very well. They had a strong defense and they were very [compact].”

Although Pekerman admitted there’s much work to do, Colombia can continue to do that work in the Copa America Centenario, where they will meet either Mexico or Chile in the semifinals at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Wednesday.

“There are very positive experiences,” Pekerman said. “That’s what we’re going to be aspiring for no matter which opponent we will face. We have the resources to bring a good match and to go out to win.”