Colombia continues perfect Copa America record, besting Paraguay 1-0
By Gabriel Briceño Fernandez
Colombia's Jhon Lucumí (r) vies for the ball with Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo during their teams' Copa America 2019 Group B at Arena Fonte Nova Stadium in Salvador, Brazil, 23 June 2019. EFE-EPA/Raul Spinasse
Colombia's Falcao Garcia (R) and Paraguay's Ivan Piris, during their teams' Copa America 2019 Group B match at Arena Fonte Nova Stadium in Salvador, Brazil, 23 June 2019. EFE-EPA/Joedson Alves
Colombia's Edwin Cardona (R) and Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo during their teams' Copa America 2019 Group B at Arena Fonte Nova Stadium in Salvador, Brazil, 23 June 2019. EFE-EPA/Mauricio Duenas Castaneda
By Gabriel Briceño Fernandez
Salvador, Brazil, Jun 23 (efe-epa).- The Colombian national soccer squad on Sunday continues its perfect record so far in this year's Copa America action, defeating Paraguay 1-0 before about 15,000 fans in the Arena Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador, Brazil, in the closing match of Group B competition, having already clinched a berth in the quarterfinals.
The Colombians were set to move on to the elimination phase of the tourney being played in Brazil, given the nine points they have garnered in their three outings so far against their Group B rivals.
Paraguay, on the other hand, will have to await the results of the Group C match between Ecuador and Japan on Monday to find out whether they will be one of the three Group B teams to move into the quarterfinals.
With advancement to the knockout stage assured, Colombia's coach - Carlos Queiroz - used a new lineup in Sunday's match, with the team using its reserves after emerging at the top of the Copa America rankings, although it remains to be seen if Group C's Chile, currently with six points in two outings, will join them at the summit after the first phase's three matches.
Colombian goaltender Alvaro Montero subbed for David Ospina, who was absent due to family issues that forced him to travel home, and defenders Cristian Zapata and Jhon Lucumi were sent onto the pitch as well. Midfielder Cuellar started in lieu of Wilmar Barrios, and Edwin Cardona took over for James Rodriguez.
Jefferson Lerma, Juan Cuadrado and team captain Radamel Falcao all started the game.
Paraguay fired its first shot on goal seven minutes into play, with Derlis Gonzalez testing rookie Colombian goaltender Alvaro Montero with a low shot that the latter managed to deflect.
Radamel Falcao almost scored for Colombia in the 28th minute when he blasted an impressive overhead kick that was just a hair off.
The game ebbed and flowed until the 31st minute, when Gustavo Cuellar fired a shot on goal that deflected off the right foot of Paraguay goalkeeper Roberto Fernandez for the lone tally of the match.
In the second half, Colombia had a goal disallowed when James Rodriguez tapped a pass to Luis Diaz, who fired a blast into the net past Fernandez from 10 meters, but after a lengthy VAR review, officials came to the conclusion that the ball had brushed Diaz's right arm and the goal was disallowed.
Paraguay - who needed the win to advance directly to the quarterfinals - hadn't show much fight during the first half against the focused Colombian squad, and after the break, Colombia worked to increase its lead, but it was not to be, while their rivals seemed devoid of drive and just couldn't get things together to at least secure a draw.
Colombia will have to wait for the Group C matches to conclude on Monday to learn who its opponent will be in the quarterfinals, that team being the second-place squad from the neighboring group.
Paraguay, on the other hand, needs a draw between Japan and Ecuador in Group C to advance as one of the two best third-place finishers.
Colombia: Alvaro Montero; Santiago Arias, Cristian Zapata, Jhon Lucumi, Cristian Borja; Gustavo Cuellar, Jefferson Lerma, Edwin Cardona (m.84, Wilmar Barrios); Juan Cuadrado (m.58, James Rodriguez), Radamel Falcao Garcia (m.66, Duvan Zapata) and Luis Diaz.
Coach: Carlos Queiroz.
Paraguay: Roberto Fernandez; Ivan Piris, Gustavo Gomez, Junior Alonso, Santiago Arzamendia; Rodrigo Rojas (m.62, Juan Iturbe), Richard Sanchez, Derlis Gonzalez (m.81, Oscar Romero), Miguel Almiron, Matias Rojas (m.46, Cecilio Dominguez); and Oscar Cardozo.
Coach: Eduardo Berizzo.