Colombia went into Saturday's match against Costa Rica already assured of a spot in the Copa America Centenario Quarterfinals. And because of the US's 1-0 victory over Paraguay just before kickoff, it knew it only needed a draw to advance as the winners of Group A – and possibly avoid a date with Brazil in the quarters.
Yet, Colombia looked unmotivated to start the match – falling behind a goal in the second minute. 92 minutes later, the Colombians were left stunned with a 3-2 defeat at the feet of Los Ticos.
Here are 3 observations from Costa Rica's win over Colombia Saturday night at NRG Stadium.
Why tinker with a good thing
Colombia started the Copa America off strong with a 2-0 and 2-1 win over the US and Paraguay respectively. They were facing a Costa Rican side that had yet to score in the tournament, and had just been trounced 4-0 by the Americans.
Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman figured Saturday was as good a time as any to tinker with his lineup – to the tune of 10 changes to his starting 11. Pekerman said after the match "we thought with the job we had done up to this point, tonight's match was a good time to run the risk [of making multiple changes to the lineup].
"We came in to tonight with a game plan. We meant no disrespect to Costa Rica, who I have the utmost respect for, they demonstrated the quality of team we thought they were. But we thought we could still compete and complete our objectives with this lineup."
Knowing what we know now, maybe Pekerman only changes half the starting lineup.
Defense was optional Saturday night
It was weird being inside JJ Watt's house and not seeing a solid defense – especially since Colombia is not Kansas City.
Costa Rica, who made a great run at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, couldn't find the back of the net against Paraguay or the US. But less than 2 minutes into the match against Colombia, they found themselves up in the score sheet. Costa Rican midfielder Celso Borges hit a long ball over top to Johan Venegas, who was able to turn freely and hit a strike from 20 yards out for the goal.
"[Colombia] committed some errors on the back tonight," Venegas said after the match. "They pushed with great pace, but we always seemed to have an answer for them. We were able to push back with an attack, and by God's graces we converted our chances."
Colombia's defense was lackadaisical for most the night. The one bright spot was defender Frank Fabra who finished the night with two goals. Although it must be noted that his second was an own goal.
US wins Group A
Colombia's failure tonight allowed the United States to advance to the knockout round as winners of Group A. The US will now travel to Seattle, WA to face the runner-up of Group B – to be determined Sunday.
That leaves Colombia as the runner-up, who now await the Group B winner – presumably Brazil.
But the thought of playing their South American rivals doesn't seem to bother Colombia's head coach.
"We knew we'd face either Brazil, Ecuador, or Peru," Pekerman said. "Those are rivals that we would have to face in [World Cup] qualification. Each side presents different weapons. We're all trying to do good at the Copa America, but we're all looking for ways to improve."
Which is where a problem seems to lie with this tournament. The South American federations seem to be taking the Copa America seriously by bringing their star players. But the question has to be asked, do they consider this a real legitimate tournament, or is it simply a tune-up for upcoming World Cup qualification? Would Colombia had made the 10 lineup changes at last summer's Copa America in Chile?