The second round of Group A fixtures saw Colombia book a quarter-final spot at the expense of Paraguay, while hosts USA beat Costa Rica to register their first victory of the tournament.
The Soldier Field in Chicago saw USA record an emphatic victory — their first in the tournament — against Costa Rica. The much needed win gives the hosts a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
A Man of the Match performance from James Rodriguez helped Colombia record their second victory in the tournament as they became the first team to qualify from Group A.
USA 4-0 Costa Rica
USA went into the game with a side that remained unchanged following the 0-2 loss to Colombia. They managed to dominate a Costa Rica side who were surprisingly poor from start to finish. The midfield was dominant, the strikers were clinical and the defence was calm. It was a much needed win for the USA and one that will ease the pressure on boss Jurgen Klinsmann as well.
The first few minutes were shaky, with the Americans requiring some time to get their head in the game. They nearly conceded an early goal when a bad clearance from DeAndre Yedlin was met with a strike from Joel Campbell, which flew just wide off the post.
Minutes later, Bobby Wood was fouled by Costa Rica’s Christian Gamboa and the referee awarded the hosts a penalty. Clint Dempsey stepped up to take the resulting spot-kick and converted calmly to give his side the lead. With the goal, the former Fulham forward became only the second player to hit 50 goals for USA, alongside Landon Donovan. This seemed to be the turning point in the game as the USA seemed to have collected their bearings and would go on to dominate till the very end.
Costa Rica looked sluggish in the first half of the game and the absence of Kendal Watson did not make it any easier on their defence. Though they had more possession in periods of the game, they were dealt another blow as Alvaro Saborio replaced Marco Urena after 18 minutes.
In the 37th minute, Dempsey passed the ball to Jermaine Jones, and the former Schalke midfielder put it past Patrick Pemberton in the Costa Rica goal to double the lead. There would be more agony for Los Ticos as Dempsey set up another goal for Wood, who finished easily to make it 3-0 after 42 minutes.
The second half saw Costa Rica’s best chance, as Bryan Ruiz’s header came off the post in the 67th minute. Francisco Calvo helped delay a 4th USA goal after he cut off a cross intended for Zardes who had an open goal waiting for him, with Pemberton caught off guard in a horrible position. Dempsey was off for Chris Wondolowski in the 78th minute and he received a standing ovation from the 39,000 strong crowd for his performance.
Graham Zusi put the icing on the cake in the dying stages of the game, scoring from a passage of play that began with him being fouled on the edge of the Costa Rica penalty area.
Colombia 2-1 Paraguay
Colombia secured their quarter-final spot via goals from Carlos Bacca and what would eventually be the winner from James Rodriguez. Victor Ayala’s thunderous strike couldn’t save Paraguay as they lost for the first time in the tournament. They now find themselves third in the group with a slim chance of qualifying.
James Rodriguez managed to overcome a shoulder injury and led his team out for this tie. Colombia started off as the stronger side and looked more threatening in the early stages of the game. Christian Zapata won a corner on 11 minutes and the captain stepped up to take the corner. The perfect in-swinging cross found the head of AC Milan hitman Carlos Bacca, who put Colombia ahead. James nearly had a chance to get on the score sheet 4 minutes later, but his effort was saved by Paraguay’s Justo Villar.
The Colombians did eventually double their lead via James. Edwin Cardona laid off the ball for the Real Madrid star inside the Paraguayan box and he smashed it past a helpless Villar to double their lead on 30 minutes. Four minutes later it seemed as if Paraguay had pulled one back, but Da Silva’s flick was rightly judged to be offside.
The half went on with some more dominating play from Colombia and Paraguay were passing recklessly and were unable to keep possession for long periods of time. Minutes before the end of the half, Colombia found themselves on the counter attack with Bacca and Cuadrado marauding forward, but they made a mess of it and couldn’t capitalise on the lack of a defensive presence in the Paraguayan half.
David Ospina made some brilliant saves in both halves — notably on the hour mark where the a Paraguayan corner was met by a superb header directed towards the top corner by Romero. Ten minutes later Colombia thought they got their third goal, but it was disallowed after Bacca was judged to be offside.
A minute later, Paraguay pulled one back finally with a thunderous goal. Ayala scored a belter from nearly 30 yards out, giving Ospina no chance and he was helpless as he saw the ball fly into the top corner. 2-1 and Paraguay were back in it.
That goal gave the Paraguayans some confidence and they began moving the ball around better, playing with some hope and new-found energy. This was to be short lived as on 81 minutes, they were reduced to 10 men. Romero was penalised for the second time for dragging down James Rodriguez by his shirt. Paraguay and Colombia both played with an equal sense of urgency until the very end, with both sides seeing off goal-line clearances. However, Colombia managed to hold on to the lead and booked themselves a spot in the quarter-final.