Colombia came and spoiled the party, easing to a 2-0 win over the United States in the Copa America Centenario curtain-raiser in Santa Clara on Friday.
With the Copa America being staged outside of South America for the first time, there was plenty of hype surrounding USA but the host nation were left silenced as captain James Rodriguez and Cristian Zapata inspired Colombia in the Group A opener at Levi’s Stadium.
Zapata opened the scoring in the eighth minute after latching onto Edwin Cardona’s corner for his first international goal and James – attempting to put a difficult season with Real Madrid behind him having sat out the Champions League f
inal last month – converted a 41st-minute penalty.
However, Colombia – quarter-finalists at last year’s tournament – will be sweating on the fitness of James, who was forced off the field just past the hour-mark due to a shoulder injury, after landing awkwardly.
Jurgen Klinsmann named a full-strength XI, with the same line-up that started the second half of last week’s 4-0 friendly win over Bolivia. Captain Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Brad Guzan and Fabian Johnson headlined the team.
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) June 4, 2016
Likewise with Colombia, who called in their big guns for the opening clash after captain James and Edwin Cardona were drafted into the starting line-up as Dayro Moreno and Marlos Moreno made way in the only changes to the side that saw off Haiti 3-1 on Wednesday.
USA barely had a chance to settle, with Colombia threatening every time they went forward and it only took eight minutes for the South American’s made their dominance count.
A teasing delivery from Cardona found Zapata and the centre-back powerfully volleyed home the corner kick to silence an entire nation.
While USA eventually settled their nerves and enjoyed some extended periods of possession, they never troubled goalkeeper David Ospina, with Dempsey’s long-range effort just past the half-hour, which almost curled inside the post, the only real highlight for the home team.
And USA’s evening went from bad to worse four minutes before half-time as James doubled Colombia’s lead from the spot.
— Copa América 2016 (@CA2016) June 4, 2016
Referee Roberto Garcia awarded a penalty, amid bewilderment in the stands after DeAndre Yedlin was deemed to have handled the ball, and James converted the spot-kick emphatically for his 15th international goal, moving him equal fifth alongside Teofilo Gutierrez and Victor Aristizabal in Colombia’s all-time leading scorer standings.
USA emerged from the interval on the front foot and twice came close to pulling a goal back via Dempsey.
Dempsey had a header cleared off the line by Sebastian Perez on the hour-mark and the Seattle Sounders star then forced Ospina into a diving save with his free-kick effort.
In the midst of all that, Colombia were given a scare after James landed awkwardly on his shoulder. The 24-year-old received treatment on the sidelines and returned to the field before he eventually succumbed to injury.
Bacca almost added some gloss to the scoreline with 14 minutes remaining but the AC Milan striker rattled the crossbar, not that it impacted the result as USA were left winless from their last six Copa America appearances, dating back to 1995.
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