The streak continues. Despite several injuries, contentious refereeing decisions, and a second half filled with valiant defending, Colombia extended its unbeaten streak to 27 games straight with their win over Uruguay. They looked terrifying in transition, divebombing their pitiable opponents with their fluid, dribble-heavy front four. James Rodriguez, now 32 and playing with Sao Paulo, looked like he was 23 again lighting up Real Madrid.

Colombia showed why they were the most dominant team in South America, even over Brazil and Argentina, with their first-half performance against Uruguay. The attack looked beautiful to watch, often connecting, drawing themselves out of position, and beating their markers one-on-one.

Colombia strolls past Uruguay in first half

James, who has found his rhythm this Copa America, created three chances throughout the match. Luis Diaz looked electric down the left, holding the ball up at times, but drifting into the middle other times to set up teams. Colombia is a team full of experience, both with their clubs and each other. They seem poised yet patient, thrillingly intense in attack but solid on defense.

The first big moment was a rough tackle on Colombia striker Jhon Cordoba, which injured Cordoba’s tackler. While putting in a tackle on Cordoba, key anchoring midfielder Rodrigo Bentacur collided with Mathias Olivera. It took Bentacur several minutes to get up, and when he did, he was accompanied by a pained grimace and a clutched thigh. Bentacur eventually had to leave the game early.

The first big moment in their high-tempo match came through the speedy Darwin Nunez. After a give-and-go with Mathias Olivera, Nunez danced past center-back Carlos Cuesta. The Liverpool striker got the ball to the top of the box, and with keeper Camilo Vargas off his line, he had a fair shot on goal. But, his curling effort spun just over the crossbar.

James created something out of nothing with his set-piece magic. Rodriguez floated a cross towards the back post, meeting a powerful header from Jefferson Lerma. Lerma’s effort narrowly squeaked past keeper Sergio Rochet, and just like that, Colombia had their opener.

And then, tremors. The sound and feel of Colombia fans jumping in their seats could have passed for an earthquake. Bank of America Stadium looked vibrant with the yellow jerseys that scattered the stadium.

Munoz red card gives Colombia disadvantage

It seemed only moments later that the excitement would turn to dread. After Daniel Munoz had a brief argument with a Uruguay defender, Manuel Ugarte put his hand on Munoz’s shoulder and another in Munoz’s rib cage. Munoz turned around and gave Ugarte a reactionary elbow.

Although the conflict was brief, it was enough for the referee to give Munoz a yellow card, his second of the day. Despite protests from Colombia staff and players, Munoz took the walk of shame as halftime neared. Colombia would have to defend their one-goal lead with ten men.

Around 10 minutes after halftime, Colombia’s skillful midfielder Richard Rios took a tough tackle from Maximiliano Araujo. Rios, who looked injured and begged for treatment, was initially disregarded by the ref until the protests of James delayed the game. James got booked, but Rios got treatment and eventually left out of the game. The scenario showed questionable refereeing and set the tone for a physical first half.

It took several valiant efforts to keep Uruguay from equalizing. Vargas came up with an incredible stop against Nunez in the 65th minute, selflessly shielding the near post by sacrificing his body. Luis Suarez hit the post after receiving a well-hit Federico Valverde pass. The Inter Miami striker seemed dumbfounded and frustrated that his shot pinged off the woodwork — Suarez hasn’t scored for Uruguay since March 2022.

Despite going down a man, Colombia was still lethal in transition. In the 89th minute, with fatigue setting in, super-sub Luis Sinisterra scampered onto a clumsily-hit Rochet pass in the box. Sinisterra shoved it towards teammate Kevin Castano. Castano passed to Matheus Uribe at the edge of the box, but his shot rolled narrowly wide of the post.

Uribe had a chance to redeem himself in stoppage time after Castano played Sinisterra through on goal. Sinisterra squared the ball to Uribe with only the keeper to beat from 12 yards out, but Uribe sent his shot flying into Rochet. The shot bounced off the inside of the crossbar and outside of the net, to the dismay of Uribe. Luckily, it didn’t matter. Despite the embarrassing miss, the referee blew his full-time whistle to the excited whoops of Colombian fans.

Off-field issues mar match

The customary pitch invasion from the players and the half-field celebrations were marred by antics from the Uruguayan players. Uruguay and Colombia got into a brawl after the game, with Suarez one of the players having to be separated. Darwin Nunez led a fight in the stands, with Uruguayan players fighting Colombia fans in a scene resembling Malice at the Palace. However, reports emerged that Colombia fans ‘avalanched’ the section of the players’ families. Nunez was seen consoling his distraught two-year-old son after the scene.

Colombia will travel to Miami to face Argentina on Sunday. If Colombia wins, it will be their first Copa America title since beating Mexico on home turf in 2001. It would be a deserved victory for a Colombia side that has looked dominant throughout the tournament. Uruguay will stay in Charlotte to take on Canada in the third-place game.