In the early hours of Thursday morning, two more crucial group games took place at the Copa America. Here is what happened in those potentially crucial clashes:
Colombia book quarter-final spot
The South American side dominated for much of the game. However, Qatar produced a stubborn defensive display. Colombia looked to have taken the lead after just six minutes, as Everton centre-back Yerry Mina saw a header effort ruled out for offside.
James Rodriguez missed a glorious chance on 13 minutes, heading wide off goal when well placed from Martinez cross. Carlos Queiroz’s team continued to come forward, as winger Juan Cuadrado drew a comfortable save from Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb from a long-range effort. Stefan Medina also fired into the side-netting.
Early in the second period, Colombia believed they had a penalty kick, only for VAR to overrule the official’s initial decision to point to the spot. Mina headed wide on 56 minutes before Martinez fired straight at Al Sheed after good play from James Rodriguez.
At the other end of the pitch, Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina was finally tested, having to produce two saves to deny Qatar. Colombia did finally take the lead with just four minutes left on the clock, as Duvan Zapata headed home from a sublime chipped pass by James.
The striker then missed a golden opportunity to seal the victory. However, the miss mattered little. The victory was enough to take Colombian through to the quarter-finals. They are now third favourites to lift the trophy.
Qatar could still qualify for the last eight. To do so they would have to beat Argentina and hope that Colombia defeated Paraguay in the other game.
Messi penalty rescues Argentina against Paraguay
Continental giants Argentina once again struggled to perform, as they were held to a 1-1 draw against Paraguay. In truth, Lionel Scaloni’s team could easily have lost the match.
Paraguay took the lead on 37 minutes. Newcastle playmaker Miguel Almiron produced a superb solo run before finding Ricardo Sanchez, who fired a low effort past Franco Armani into the bottom corner of the net.
Inter striker Lautaro Martinez hit the woodwork on 51 minutes for Argentina, as they struggled to find an equaliser. However, they did level the scores on 57 minutes. A VAR review confirmed that Paraguay Ivan Piris handled an effort by Martinez in his own area. Lionel Messi stepped up and made no mistake from the spot.
Paraguay should have regained the lead on 63 minutes. Manchester City centre-back Nicolas Otamendi produced a rash challenge on Gonzalez in the Argentinian penalty area. However, Armani guessed right and kept out Derlis Gonzalez spot-kick. Martinez miss the target with a late headed effort and the game finished all-square.
The result means that Paraguay can qualify for the quarter-finals with a win over Colombia. However, Argentina needs to beat Qatar in their last group game and hope that the Paraguayans fail to beat group winners Colombia in the final game of Group B.
Will Argentina make it to the quarter-finals of the Copa America?