Copa America 2024: James Rodriguez steers Colombia past Paraguay

Copa America 2024

James Rodriguez rolled back the years with a vintage performance to help Colombia open their Copa America campaign with a 2-1 victory over Paraguay in Houston on Monday.

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 his team's goals in a deserved Group D victory at the NRG Stadium.

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 flank, 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 and Hove Albion'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 of the tournament on Friday, before wrapping up their first round campaign against Brazil on July 2.

Brazil open their Copa America campaign against the Costa Ricans in Inglewood, California, later on Monday.