Colombia plays Paraguay with mind already on Copa last 8
SALVADOR, Brazil (AP) — With its mind already on the Copa America quarterfinals, Colombia will try to take advantage of the pressure on Paraguay on Sunday as the two teams meet in their last group match.
The game could also decide Argentina’s future in the tournament.
Colombia has already won Group B with six points, and even a defeat at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador won’t change that. Paraguay has two points, one more than Qatar and Argentina which play at the same time in Porto Alegre.
The top two in each group and the two best third-place finishers advance to the quarterfinals.
A Paraguayan win will mean Lionel Messi’s Argentina can finish no higher than third. In that case, Argentina will hope Brazil beats Peru by more than two goals and that Japan doesn’t beat Ecuador in Belo Horizonte in Group C.
Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz, on his first tournament in charge of Colombia, has brought out the best in James Rodriguez — in the same country the midfielder had his first great run with Colombia at the 2014 World Cup.
Queiroz did not reveal his lineup for Sunday’s game but has hinted he will make some changes.
A goalkeeping switch is certain. David Ospina traveled to Colombia on Friday because of his father’s health. He is expected to return for the rest of the tournament, but a date has not been set.
Deportivo Cali’s Camilo Vargas is likely to stand in for Ospina.
Queiroz may also make changes to avoid suspensions for half of his team. Captain Falcao Garcia, Duvan Zapata, Roger Martinez, Mateus Uribe and Juan Cuadrado could miss the quarterfinals if they receive another yellow card against Paraguay.
Midfielder Gustavo Cuellar said no matter who plays, Colombia is keen to “score nine out of nine points” in Copa America’s group stage.
“We have the skills and the capacities to win again,” Cuellar said. “We don’t know who will play, but obviously those that do will give their best.”
Paraguay will count on the return of striker Oscar Cardozo to the starting lineup. He missed the 1-1 draw against Argentina because of an injury and was replaced by Federico Santander, who did not perform as coach Eduardo Berizzo expected.
Berizzo said the match against Argentina was his team’s best since he took over in March.
“We will use that as a platform,” he said.