Brazil Top Copa America 2015 Group C Despite Colombia Loss
The Brazil national football team is on track to contend for its ninth Copa America title. The big news story of the moment is that Brazil top Copa America 2015 Group C, in doing this they have qualified for a slot in the knockout stages. Surprisingly, though, the Brazilians didn’t sail to easy victory, in fact they didn’t even win every group stage game, Brazil suffered one loss—against Colombia.
A Growing Rivalry
The rivalry between Brazil and Colombia has become increasingly heated since last summer’s World Cup. Historically, this rivalry—if you could even call it that—has been remarkably one-sided, with the Brazilian side walking away with 18 wins in 28 fixtures (and draws in most of the others). But last summer’s quarterfinal World Cup match between these two football teams got ugly.
A little background info: Colombia had the breakout star of the 2014 World Cup tournament in James Rodriguez, who ultimately won the Golden Boot award with a tally of six goals. Meanwhile, Brazil were the hosts, aiming to win a record sixth World Cup title in front of home audiences.
To shut Rodriguez down, the Brazil squad repeatedly fouled the young midfielder during the quarterfinal match, shutting down any opportunity he might have had to score (though he did manage a penalty goal late in the game.) The match quickly escalated in terms of frustration and hostility, until Colombia’s Juan Zuniga fouled Brazil’s Neymar so violently that the latter had to be taken off the football field on a stretcher.
It turned out Neymar had suffered a fractured vertebrae and would be out of commission for a while, so even though Brazil ultimately beat Colombia in the quarterfinal, the win cost them their best player. The Brazilian hosts subsequently lost spectacularly to Germany in the semifinals (1-7), and then again in the third-place consolation match against the Netherlands (0-3).
A Revenge Match
The prevailing thought for a while has been that since Brazil and Colombia destroyed one another’s chances at the 2014 World Cup, their group stage meeting at the 2015 Copa America would be something of a “revenge match.” And while both teams downplayed that description leading up to the tournament, the actual match proved to be nearly as venomous as everyone had expected.
Looking at the group stage as a whole, Brazil were obviously the best team in Group C. They confidently defeated both Peru and Venezuela (in 2-1 fixtures), and Neymar, Douglas Costa, Roberto Firmino, and Thiago Silvo all scored goals. Colombia on the other hand, were a shadow of what they were last summer, losing 0-1 to Venezuela and settling for a scoreless draw against Peru. James Rodriguez, the boy wonder of last year’s World Cup, didn’t even score a goal.
In fact, Colombia was very nearly eliminated from the Copa America after the group stage. They finished third in Group C, and ranked second of the three third-place teams in the soccer tournament. As such, they did earn a spot in the knockout stage, but only by a very narrow margin.
The match against Brazil on June 17th was the only time that the Colombia side showed any hunger. For those 90 minutes, though, the wearers of the Colombia jersey truly looked like a team with something to prove, and it’s difficult not to see revenge as their primary driving force.
Indeed, the match between these two squads was far from friendly. Neymar and company donned the Brazil away jersey 2014 – 2015 for the game, confident that their rivalry with the Colombians would remain one-sided. It quickly became clear, though, that these two teams had nothing but contempt for each another. By the time the match was over, the teams had accumulated 20 fouls…each.
Colombia got a leg up at the 36-minute mark, with a goal from Jeison Murillo. The real story of the match, however, came after the final whistle was blown. Colombia won the game 1-0, and Neymar, unhappy with the loss, appeared to aim a headbutt at Murillo. The incident quickly erupted into a melee on the field, and Neymar and Colombian player Carlos Bacca were both shown red cards.
Neymar received a four-match ban for the altercation, and could miss the rest of the tournament pending an appeal by Brazil. And while the Brazilian side did manage to beat Venezuela without their star forward, they will need him if they are going to contend with the likes of Argentina for the 2015 Copa America title.