Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Colombia 5-0 Panama: Rodriguez stars as La Tricolor coast into Copa America semi-finals

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 6 Jul 2024

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James Rodriguez stole the show with a goal and two assists as Colombia breezed into the Copa America semi-finals after brushing Panama aside with a 5-0 thrashing on Saturday.

Colombia captain Rodriguez teed up Jhon Cordoba’s opener and Luis Diaz’s cool lob either side of his own 15th-minute penalty at State Farm Stadium.

Richard Rios hammered home another after 70 minutes in bizarre circumstances after the referee appeared to blow for a Colombia penalty, then Miguel Borja converted when Nestor Lorenzo’s side were awarded another spot-kick in stoppage time.

Having dispatched Panama with ease, a semi-final meeting with either Brazil or Uruguay awaits for Colombia, who have reached the last four in three of their last four Copa tournaments.

Colombia needed just eight minutes to open the scoring as Cordoba found space inside the six-yard box, diving low to head Rodriguez’s right-sided corner past Orlando Mosquera.

Jose Fajardo blazed over in response but Lorenzo’s side would soon extend their advantage only seven minutes after taking the lead.

Panama goalkeeper Mosquera felled the onrushing Jhon Arias, with a lengthy VAR check reviewing a potential offside in the build-up before the penalty decision was confirmed.

Yet that stoppage failed to detract from Rodriguez’s focus as the attacking midfielder hammered into the top-right corner from 12 yards, sending Mosquera the wrong way.

Panama almost halved the arrears soon after, though Edgardo Farina’s header from Eric Davis’ free-kick cannoned against the left post before Camilo Vargas somehow parried away on the line.

Thomas Christensen’s side suffered further damage just before the break as Rodriguez’s quick-thinking free-kick from inside his own half set up Diaz to lob the stranded Mosquera from just outside the Panama box.

Panama provided a battling performance of some sorts in the second half, yet for the wrong reasons as numerous fouls slowed the game down with Jovani Welch and Farina both cautioned.

Daniel Munoz was then felled as the referee appeared to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot, only for Rios to arrow into the bottom-right corner from range to make the advantage count.

Christensen and the Panama bench cut frustrated figures following that odd refereeing sequence, and that annoyance furthered when Borja slotted a stoppage-time penalty into the bottom-right corner after Jose Cordoba clumsily hacked down Santiago Arias.

Who can stop Rodriguez-inspired Colombia?

Lorenzo’s men are now a remarkable 27 games unbeaten after their dominant victory, though a huge test awaits them in the semi-finals against either Uruguay or Brazil.

Yet both of those sides may be no match for Colombia if Rodriguez’s imperious form is anything to go by.

The Sao Paolo midfielder is the first player in the Copa America to both score and assist within the opening 15 minutes of a match, since such records began in 2011.

Rodriguez is also the first player at the 2024 edition to reach six goal involvements (one goal, five assists), ahead of Argentina’s Lautaro Martinez and Venezuela’s Salomon Rondon (both four).

The Colombia captain’s five assists are three more than any other player so far at this Copa. Will that creativity lead Lorenzo’s side to glory?

Panama pain

The 2024 edition of the Copa America marked only Panama’s second participation, with this their first instance of making the knockout stages.

Panama may have been confident for this one, too, having won four of their previous seven competitive meetings this century against CONMEBOL sides (three defeats).

Indeed, two of those victories came against Colombia (both at the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup), and Christensen’s team impressed this year in Group C to pip the United States to second.

Yet they were brought crashing back down to earth here, with no way back after a first-half blitz from an imperious Colombia side.

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