Rodriguez inspires Colombia into semis with 5-0 win over Panama


Confident Colombia marched into the semi-finals of the Copa America with an impressive 5-0 win over Panama on Saturday setting up a meeting with Uruguay in the last four.

James Rodriguez delivered another top class performance for Colombia, creating two goals and scoring a penalty as Panama were put to the sword.

Colombia, now unbeaten in 27 games, will face Uruguay in Charlotte on Wednesday after Marcelo Bielsa’s side beat Brazil 4-2 on penalties on Saturday after the game ended goalless.

The other semi-final, on Tuesday in New Jersey, will see world champions Argentina take on surprise package Canada.

Colombia went ahead in the eighth minute when Jhon Cordoba showed great strength to hold off his marker and power home a header from a Rodriguez corner.

Seven minutes later Rodriguez converted from the penalty spot after Jhon Arias burst into the area and was brought down by diving Panama keeper Orlando Mosquera.

Panama, who had qualified from the group stage after beating the USA in group play, desperately needed a foothold in the game and went close when Roderick Miller headed against the post after a cross from Eric Davis.

But four minutes before the break, Colombia put the game beyond the reach of the Central Americans when Rodriguez showed great awareness to take a quick free-kick from in his own half, lifting the ball over the top to Luis Diaz.

The Liverpool winger raced goalward and with Mosquera caught in no-man’s land pulled off a wonderful chip to make it 3-0.

Colombia kept calm control of the game after the break and added a fourth in the 70th minute with a 25-yard blast from Richard Rios.

Daniel Munoz had looked to be brought down inside the box but before the referee could blow his whistle, Rios pounced on the loose ball and blasted home.

In stoppage time, Panama defender Jose Cordoba crashed into Santiago Arias in the area and with Rodriguez having been substituted, Miguel Borja slotted home the penalty to complete the rout.

Rodriguez has had a mixed career at club level but has been outstanding in this tournament, recapturing the kind of form that he showed when he emerged on the global stage at the World Cup in Brazil ten years ago.

The 32-year-old’s inventive passing and deft touches have added class to a team which has an abundance of pace and solid organisation.

“It was a tough game despite how the result looks. They are strong, but we came in very well, we were able to score goals quickly and that gave us control of the game,” said the midfielder, who now plays in Brazil for Sao Paulo.

“Let’s hope we can reach the final we all want that. We’re all going through a good moment and that’s good,” added the former Real Madrid and Bayern Munich playmaker.

“We have a very good team, all committed to the objective, and we’ll see what comes for us in the semi-finals,” he said.

Panama coach Thomas Christiansen felt the scoreline was harsh on his team but said they needed to remember their achievements at the tournament as they turn their attention to qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.

“The result was excessive from my point of view. But the mistakes we made cannot be made against teams of Colombia’s quality, with their speed, their intensity and the moment they are living,” he said. “I’m honestly satisfied with the players’ performance, it wasn’t the result we wanted or deserved, but we have to learn from it.

“I’m proud of my players… we must congratulate them for this great Copa America, which has not ended as we would have liked, but this is also a learning experience,” he said.

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