Copa America 2024: Brazil and red-hot Colombia brace for heated Copa clash

Five-times World Cup champions Brazil and in-form Colombia meet in North California on Tuesday in a highly-anticipated Copa America clash with more than just the Group D lead on the line.

Colombia is arguably the hottest team in the Americas with an impressive streak of 10 consecutive wins and undefeated in its last 25 matches.

Its last defeat was over two years ago, a 1-0 loss to Argentina which effectively ended their 2022 World Cup qualification hopes.

Colombia fired manager Reinaldo Rueda and brought back Nestor Lorenzo, a former Argentine player who worked for several years as Jose Pekerman’s assistant when he was in charge.

Lorenzo injected a new energy to a talented but ageing group, managing to bring out the best version of experienced players like James Rodriguez, Jhon Cordoba and Johan Mojica who most thought were passed their prime.

The rise of Richard Rios, Jhon Arias and Jefferson Lerma gave Colombia the balance it needed, its run including wins over Spain, and Germany and a dramatic fightback against Brazil when winger Luis Diaz scored a late brace to secure a shock win days after Colombian guerrillas freed his kidnapped father.

Playing an attractive style of attacking football with a relentless pace and physicality, Colombia started the Copa America by beating Paraguay and Costa Rica and topped the group with a draw against Brazil.

Beating the five-time world champion would send a statement that South America has a new force to be reckoned with.

“I know our fans are excited and who am I to give advices to people’s emotions. We are also excited, so let’s enjoy it,” Lorenzo said after his team beat Costa Rica 3-0 on Friday.

Brazil is struggling after a heartbreaking penalty defeat by Croatia in the 2022 World Cup quarterfinals.

Under the guidance of new manager Dorival Junior, Brazil’s Copa America debut was disappointing, a goalless draw against Costa Rica that was its fifth straight competitive game without a win, its worst run in 23 years.

It bounced back with a 4-1 win over Paraguay thanks to a stellar performance by forward Vinicius Jr., who showed why he is a strong contender to win the Ballon d’Or after guiding Real Madrid to a La Liga-Champions League double.

“Colombia are a stone in our shoe which we’re going to try to get it out of our way in the next game,” Brazil midfielder Bruno Guimaraes told a press conference on Sunday.

“They have a lot of players who can decide things individually, they’re a very physical team, good to play against. This is the Brazilian national team shirt we are talking about.

“It’s going to be a great test for us, a great game that we want to win to finish first (in the group). That’s what is required when you wear Brazil’s shirt.”

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