On Saturday, nearly 45,000 fans came to the Houston Texans’ NRG Stadium to watch Colombia take on Costa Rica. It was the final game of the Copa América Group A competition. Looking out into the stadium, about all you could see were Colombia yellow shirts and the decorated faces of the Colombia fans. The Colombian team had already guaranteed itself a spot in the quarterfinals and was playing to finish at the top of the group. But it was not to be.
Costa Rica, who had just been routed by the United States 4–0 on Tuesday night, pulled a 3–2 upset, knocking Colombia to second in its group, behind the United States. Colombia will next face Peru in a quarterfinal match on Friday.
If you haven’t been watching the Copa, it’s not too late to get started. Here’s what you need to know as we wrap up the group stage and enter the quarterfinals.
The U.S. leads Group A to the knockout stage.
After a shaky start — the U.S. lost to Colombia 2–0 — the United States team turned things around big time with that 4–0 win over Costa Rica and a 1–0 win over Paraguay. The 2–1 record puts the United States at the top of its group. Now the U.S. men advance to the quarterfinals in Seattle, where they will play Ecuador on Thursday.
Argentina will play its final group stage game on Tuesday when it meets Bolivia in Seattle. But Argentina has already qualified for the quarterfinals and, along with Mexico, is a favorite to win the championship.
Uruguay had an unexpected meltdown.
Uruguay is the most successful team in the history of the Copa, but there was no success for Uruguay this year. The team lost its opening game 3–1 to Mexico and then followed that up with a devastating 1–0 loss to Venezuela that knocked Uruguay out of the competition. F.C. Barcelona star striker Luis Suarez plays for Uruguay but was stuck on the bench, unable to help the team in the competition due to a hamstring injury.
Brazil crashed out.
Brazil, with a reputation as a soccer powerhouse and a record as a five-time world champion, started the Copa with a scoreless tie against Ecuador. But on Wednesday, Brazil played its second Copa game with a lot more pizzazz and easily buried Haiti 7–1. Going into Brazil’s third group game on Sunday night, nearly everyone thought that Brazil would beat its opponent, Peru. Even if Brazil only tied in the game, it would still be first in the group. But a controversial no-call on a handball at the 75th minute led to Peru winning the game 1–0, and Brazil was eliminated from the competition.
Mexico will fight it out with Venezuela.
On Monday night, Mexico faces Venezuela in Houston for the final game of Group C. Mexico has probably looked the strongest in its group, having posted a 3–1 win over Uruguay followed by a 2–0 victory over Jamaica. But no team has scored on Venezuela, which has 1-0 wins over both Jamaica and Uruguay. Based on the group results so far, Mexico and Venezuela are both guaranteed to move into the quarterfinal round. Even so, both teams want to emerge as the leader of the group. Monday night’s game should be a battle to the 90th minute.
Teams move through the group stage by placing first or second in the group. But the quarterfinals are automatic elimination games, so the pressure to win only goes up from here.
Photographs by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images (Messi); David Banks/LatinContent/Getty Images