Colombia 5-0 Panama takeaways: Colombia reach semifinals, James Rodriguez shines again

Colombia made easy work of Panama to reach the Copa America semifinals as they aim to improve upon their third-place finish in 2021.

Jhon Cordoba’s eighth-minute goal set the tone for the match. James Rodriguez then converted a penalty for his first goal of the tournament in the 15th minute and Luis Diaz put Colombia up 3-0 before half time with a remarkable chip over the goalkeeper’s head. Richard Rios added a fourth in the 70th minute and Miguel Borja finish off the 5-0 victory from the penalty spot in added time.

James was undoubtedly the star of the day — in addition to his goal, he had two assists, giving him a tournament best five in four matches. Only Lionel Messi has had as many assists in a Copa America since 2011 (he did it in 2021).

Stuart James shares his takeaways from State Farm Stadium…

Is James Rodriguez the player of the tournament so far?

There’s still a fair bit of football to be played at Copa America — big games too — but right now it’s hard to look beyond James Rodriguez as the player of the tournament.

It’s also difficult to believe that the 32-year-old is available to pretty much anyone who wants him after the Copa America, bearing in mind he is set to leave Sao Paulo after playing just under 700 league minutes in 12 months.

“It’s increasingly clear that he’s not in the coach’s plans,” Julio Casares, Sao Paulo’s president, said on the eve of the tournament. “Now he’s going to play at the Copa America. The window will determine James’ future. We don’t have any offers. His exit has to be good for the player and principally for the club.”

The Brazilian club might have some willing buyers in the coming weeks.

Rodriguez has been outstanding across his four appearances at Copa America, and it’s no exaggeration to say that you expect Colombia to score every time he stands over a set piece. His delivery from dead-balls is extraordinarily good.

It was his in-swinging corner that led to Jhon Cordoba heading Colombia ahead, while a beautiful free kick later in the first half showcased both Rodriguez’s range of passing and his intelligence. As Panama’s defence switched off for a moment, he picked out Luis Diaz with a perfectly-weighted pass. The Liverpool striker lifted the ball over the Panama goalkeeper and Colombia were 3-0 up.

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In between times, Rodriguez swept home a penalty with the confidence and conviction of a man who knew that he was never going to miss. He’s in that sort of mood right now, playing like it’s 2014 all over again.

The importance of goal-line technology

It’s easy to forget what football was like before goal-line technology. Well, we had a reminder here in the 18th minute, when Roderick Miller came desperately close to pulling a goal back for Panama, who were 2-0 down at the time.

Camilo Vargas, the Colombia goalkeeper, made a rather awkward point-blank save to deny the Panama centre-back, and it appeared incredibly close as to whether the ball had crossed the line. Naturally, your eyes are drawn towards the referee at a moment like that and you expect to see the official looking at his watch (where the signal is received) to check if the ball has crossed the line.

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There is no goal-line technology in place at this Copa America, however, and it is highly questionable whether a camera — thinking VAR here — could prove conclusively that a ball had totally crossed the line if it was that close a call.

You certainly wouldn’t want a knockout game to be decided by a controversial goal-line decision. For all the criticism of VAR, you’ll struggle to find anyone in football who thinks that the introduction of goal-line technology has been bad for the game.

Who was Luis Diaz’s goal celebration for?

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Luis Diaz celebrates his goal against Panama (Chris Coduto/AFP via Getty Images)

After scoring his second goal of the tournament in the first half, Diaz looked to the stands and held up his hands in the shape of a heart. The gesture appeared to be direct at his father, Luis Manuel Diaz Jimenez. Diaz’s parents were kidnapped in northern Colombia last year. His mother, Cilenis Marulanda, was rescued hours later, but his father was held for 12 days before being released.



Mules, motorbikes and a ‘mistake’ – the kidnap of Luis Diaz’s father

While his father was being held, Diaz showed a “Freedom for Papa” T-shirt after scoring for Liverpool in a Premier League match against Luton Town. Now, even months later, the good fortune to be celebrating goals for his country with his father in the stands doesn’t appear to be lost on Diaz.

What’s next for each team?

Colombia will face the winner of Uruguay vs. Brazil in the semifinals on Wednesday, July 10 at 8:00 p.m. ET (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC)

Panama is eliminated from the tournament.

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(Top photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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