SAO PAULO (AP) — Defending Copa America champions Brazil beat Colombia 2-1 in a tense match on Wednesday that featured three extraordinary goals. Despite the last-minute defeat, the Colombians will also advance to the knockout stage of the tournament.
Colombia opened the scoring in the 10th minute after Juan Cuadrado crossed from the right and found Luis Díaz all alone in the middle of Brazil’s penalty box. The striker shot a powerful volley to the right side of goalkeeper Weverton and scored possibly the best goal of the tournament.
Colombia then started defending against a Brazil team that barely stopped surrounding its penalty box on the poor pitch of the Nilton Santos stadium in Rio de Janeiro. It appeared as if Colombia would be able to hold out, until Argentine referee Nestor Pitana’s knee came into play.
Pitana accidentally blocked a pass by Neymar about 10 metres in front of the Colombian area in the 78th minute. Colombian defenders momentarily stopped, but Brazil substitute Lucas Paquetá just moved the ball to left-back Renan Lodi and his cross found Roberto Firmino, whose angled header beat Colombian goalkeeper David Ospina.
The Colombians initially refused to restart the match but Pitana, the referee of the 2018 World Cup final, confirmed Brazil’s goal.
Brazil kept pressuring in the final minutes and found its reward in added time. Neymar took a corner and Casemiro netted the winner.
“They came at us once and then stopped,” Casemiro said after the match. “It was our attack against their defense. Colombia is a strong team but, as the coach requires, we are very strong mentally.”
Colombia coach Reinaldo Rueda said the deflection off Pitana affected his players in the buildup to Brazil’s first goal.
“The two Brazil goals are different situations. In the first, I think the referee’s decision distracted our players. And in the second we were not paying attention when they took the corner,” he said. “It is a shame, all our effort was lost in a set piece.”
Brazil was already assured of advancing to the knockout stage before the match, but players were effusive in their celebration of the win. \Neymar and Colombia’s Miguel Borja traded insults after the match ended, and tough challenges from both sides marked the final minutes.