In group A, Colombia defeated the United States 2-0 in the opening match Friday night, and Costa Rica and Paraguay drew 0-0 a day later.
Colombia scored early when Cristian Zapata ran essentially unmarked into the center of the box off a corner and easily put the chance away (GIF thanks to Reddit user u/rodrigoelcrack). It was a shocking lapse in the US defense, who left the AC Milan defender way too much space. Colombia was in control throughout the match, but were unable to break down the US defense. As the second half approached, US fullback DeAndre Yedlin got a somewhat unlucky handball penalty, which James Rodriguez coolly scored to make them game 2-0 (GIF thanks to Reddit user /u/paicmhsc).
Cristian Zapata and Colombia did what they needed to do against the US
The second half wasn’t much to see. There were a few chances for each team, but neither team was able to finish. Colombia had the better chances, but they couldn’t put the game out of reach. The US, however, looked a little sloppy, and were decidedly not creative and uninspiring in their attempts to attack. They finished with only two shots on target. One of the US’s best potential chances was selfishly squandered by veteran striker Clint Dempsey. deep in the final third, a bad touch by Dempsey put the ball in youngster Christian Pulisic’s path, but Demsey elected to take the shot on his weaker left foot instead of letting the charging Pulisic take it on his dominant right foot. Dempsey put the shot wide.
The hosts will need to play a lot better and a lot tighter in their next two group stage games.
Colombia was more or less expected to win their match, but it does put host country United States in a tough place early in the competition. They go into tonight’s match against their CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica facing the prospect of elimination if they lose. Such an early exit would be incredibly disappointing for US fans, who believe that they can make it through the group stage. Luckily enough for them, Costa Rica will be without two key players in tonight’s match, and they could not defeat Paraguay Saturday. Los Ticos only have one point, so a draw against the US will not be enough to put them through to the knockout stage, and with their final game against heavily-favored Colombia, Costa Rica may need the win even more than the US. Costa Rica will have to do it without stalwart Keylor Navas in goal, who is injured, and starting defender Kendall Waston, who saw a straight red card in the fourth and final minute of added time against Paraguay. Waston will serve a one game suspension against the US for his sliding challenge late in the match (GIF thanks to Reddit user u/tottenhamhotsauce).
If the match ends in a win for Costa Rica, Los Ticos will be all but through to the knockout stages and the US will be eliminated with one group stage game to go. Should the US emerge victorious, the US would be in a good place to advance to the knockout stages, as Costa Rica would need a US loss to Paraguay as well as a win against Colombia to catch up. If the game ends in a draw, the two teams will head into their final group stage matches with one point separating them.
As for Colombia and Paraguay, expect the Colombians to dominate this game and secure their place in the knockout stages.
I’ll end this post with a huge thank you to the reddit.com/r/soccer community for their GIF-making masterclass. If you ever need to know anything about what;s going on in world soccer, that’s the place to look.