LOS ANGELES: Colombia kicked off the 2016 Copa America Centenario with a 2-0 victory over hosts United States in California.
Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez then added a first-half penalty in front of a crowd of 67,439 at Levi’s Stadium to secure the 2001 champions all three points in the Group A opener.
A bright start from Jose Pekerman’s side was rewarded when Zapata expertly converted Edwin Cardona’s corner from 10 yards. Clint Dempsey, who saw an earlier overhead kick attempt fail, then struck the wall from a free-kick as the hosts pushed for an equaliser.
Former Fulham forward Dempsey had another shot which flew just wide as the half drew to a close before Rodriguez delivered the killer blow on 41 minutes from a penalty after DeAndre Yedlin handled a cross.
Costa Rica take on Paraguay in Orlando in the second game in Group A on Saturday, before Group B gets underway with Haiti v Peru in Seattle and Brazil v Ecuador at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Messi flies in
Argentina’s Lionel Messi arrived in the US after flying in late following an appearance in Spain at his tax fraud trial.
Messi and his father, Jorge Horacio Messi, are accused by the Spanish tax office of defrauding the government of €4.1m (£3m) between 2007 and 2009. They could face jail terms of up to 22 months if found guilty. Both have denied the allegations.
The case centres on the player’s image rights and a web of shell companies allegedly used to evade taxes on income from those rights. According to the prosecutors’ office, revenue was hidden using shell companies in Uruguay, Belize, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Messi and his father paid €5m to the tax authorities as a “corrective” measure after being formally investigated in June 2013.
In addition to Messi, Spain’s tax office has also begun investigating the finances of high-profile Barcelona players such as Neymar, Javier Mascherano and Adriano.
A resident in Barcelona since 2000, Messi became a Spanish citizen in 2005. He is 10th on Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s highest-earning athletes over the past decade, with an income of $350m. Messi has scored 314 goals in 348 appearances for Barça, boasts eight Liga titles and is a four-times winner of the Champions League and Spanish cup.
** Cameroon became the third team to qualify for next year’s African Cup of Nations after a 1-0 victory over Mauritania. Edgar Salli scored the only goal of the game after 29 minutes. Mauritania could still qualify for the finals for the first time as one of the two best second-place teams from the 13 qualifying groups.
Four-time winners Cameroon thus joined Morocco and Algeria, who had already qualified, while Gabon ‘own’ a place as 2017 host nation.