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Brazil frustrated by Costa Rica, Colombia beat Paraguay at Copa

A lacklustre Brazil launched their Copa America campaign with a dour 0-0 draw against Costa Rica on Monday as James Rodriguez inspired Colombia to a 2-1 win over Paraguay.

Brazil, chasing a 10th Copa America crown, dominated possession and territory in the Group D game at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles but struggled to break down a resolute Costa Rica.

The Brazilians thought they had taken the lead in the 30th minute after Marquinhos tapped in at the back post after a flick on by Rodrygo following a free-kick by Raphinha.

But after an agonising VAR delay, the goal was chalked off for a fractional offside decision as Costa Rica escaped.

That was as good as it got for Brazil, who laboured to break down Costa Rica’s defence for the remainder of the game, registering just three shots on target despite enjoying 73.5 percent possession.

Costa Rica were content to sit back, defending in numbers and rarely venturing forward with any purpose.

The Costa Ricans failed to have a single shot on goal for the entire game.

Brazil coach Dorival Junior paid tribute to Costa Rica’s defensive organisation.

“They were very well organised from start to finish,” he said. “They were dedicated in everything they did.”

Colombia finished the day top of Group D after collecting all three points in their deserved win over Paraguay at Houston’s NRG Stadium.

Rodriguez sparkles

Rodriguez, whose club career has languished in the decade since he rose to prominence with a dazzling performance at the 2014 World Cup, created both of Colombia’s goals.

The 32-year-old midfielder, who has played just a handful of minutes for Brazilian club Sao Paulo in the two months leading into the Copa America, set up the opening goal for Colombia in the 32nd minute.

After finding space on the left, Rodriguez flighted a pinpoint cross to the far post to pick out Daniel Munoz, who beat Paraguay goalkeeper Rodrigo Morinigo with a firm downward header to make it 1-0.

Ten minutes later Colombia doubled their lead and again it was a goal engineered by the trusty left boot of Rodriguez.

This time the goal arrived from the opposite flank, with Rodriguez swinging in a wicked free-kick that was glanced in by Crystal Palace midfielder Jefferson Lerma.

That made it 2-0 at half time to leave Colombia firmly on course to extend their unbeaten streak to 24 games.

Colombia continued to carve out the better chances in the second half, but Paraguay set up a nervy finish after Brighton’s Julio Enciso pulled one back in the 69th minute.

Ramon Sosa crossed from the left and Enciso punished slack marking in the Colombia area to hook an angled first-time volley into the bottom corner past Camilo Vargas.

Colombia however controlled play after the Paraguay goal and looked the more threatening team.

The Colombians thought they had earned a penalty in the 84th minute when another teasing Rodriguez cross into the box ended with defender Yerry Mina appearing to be hauled down by Gustavo Velazquez.

Argentinian referee Dario Herrera pointed to the spot but subsequently overturned the decision after a VAR review.

Colombia play Costa Rica in their second group game on Friday, before wrapping up their first-round campaign against Brazil on July 2.

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