10-man Colombia beat Uruguay to set up Copa America final against Argentina

July 11 – It has been said that speed and chaos kill! If that’s the case, there was a mass murder at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, because Colombia and Uruguay simply tore into each other at 100mph in a breathtaking display of commitment, desire, and aggression for the right to play Argentina in the Copa America final on Sunday.

Colombia edged that right with a 1-0 win but it took a night of drama to get there.

With two Argentine coaches, Marcelo Bielsa (Uruguay) and Nestor Lorenzo (Colombia) patrolling the technical areas this was always going to be a chess match with boxing gloves. The key would be ‘who could keep their heads’ while playing the South American version of street football. The answer would be Colombia…just!

In the 15th minute after excellent Colombia pressure, the first good chance fell to Daniel Munoz the marauding right back. Luis Diaz put in a brilliant cross that invited Munoz to soar over Maximilliano Araujo but his header went wide of the post.

Just two minutes later the first of three opportunities fell to Darwin Nunez. The Liverpool striker has been heralded for his incredible work rate and movement but derided for his finishing.

Here was a case of the latter as he shot wide from the top of the box. It was a case of rinse and repeat 10 minutes later as his curler went wide when it looked easier to hit the target.

On the half-hour, Munoz found himself in the referee, Cesar Ramos’, notebook for a tackle on Araujo, and that would have huge ramifications 15 minutes later, however, before that Colombia would break the deadlock.

James Rodriguez who has a habit of showing up for big events (think World Cup 2014) fizzed an inswinger from the right corner and Jefferson Lerma leapt highest to force his header inside the near post though Uruguayan keeper Sergio Rochet will be disappointed with his effort. 1-0 to Colombia.

As the half drew to a close and a chance to clear the minds, Munoz lost his. A case of handbags with Manuel Ugarte saw Munoz unleash an elbow into the midriff of his opponent. Down went Ugarte but did Ramos see it in the chaos? Did VAR intervene? The answer was unclear, but the result was a second yellow card which meant that Colombia would play an entire half with only 10 men.

Playing against 10 players is not the simplest of tasks though, especially when those 10 players are riding a 27-match unbeaten streak. The belief surging through Los Cafeteros and the yellow clad supporters dominating the BofA stadium was visceral.

The intensity levels heightened with every passing second and once again cool heads would be called for by Nestor Lorenzo, however, his captain, playmaker, and talisman James, couldn’t deliver. His anger after seeing Richard Rios poleaxed in the corner was directed at the referee, Ramos, who produced a yellow card. Lorenzo had no choice but to replace his captain with Kevin Castano for fear of losing him for a potential final.

This signaled the moment for Colombia to make its stand. They would retreat deep into their half and have Bielsa’s men ask the questions. The Argentine would respond with the legend, Luis Suarez, who within five minutes had hit the outside of the post with a sharp effort but that would be as close as Uruguay would come to finding an equaliser.

The men in blue simply ran out of ideas. It was as though they thought brute force would break down the yellow wall, but Camilo Vargas was more than capable of dealing with anything thrown at him. As Uruguay pushed more men forward, space opened up and Castano had two glorious chances to wrap the game up for Colombia missing one wide and then hitting the crossbar when it looked easier to score.

One would be enough though as Ramos, who had been excellent blew his whistle to end a pulsating game of football.

For Uruguay, they’ll look to the chances that Nunez missed in the first half and wonder how they couldn’t make their extra man count. Meanwhile, Colombia will play their first-ever Copa America final outside of their homeland riding an incredible 28-game unbeaten streak. Standing in their way, is Argentina, a team that has only lost once since lifting the crown in Qatar.

Something has to give on Sunday at the aptly named Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

Contact the writer of this story, Nick Webster, at moc.l1721247156labto1721247156ofdlr1721247156owedi1721247156sni@o1721247156fni1721247156