From start to finish, this was a brutal battle and sharp contrast to any Euro 2016 match we've seen thus far. If Spain's dismembering of Turkey today was a waltz - a poetic act of scintillating football that captivated an entire continent, then tonight's Copa America match between Peru and Colombia was the complete antithesis of that.
Do you remember FIFA 99? Ah, the days where you could set the settings for 'foul occurrence' on maximum and yet reap the benefits of a foul-free encounter whilst mercilessly mauling the 'O' (tackle) button and breaking every leg in sight. Tonight, every player on the pitch played montage to said game, and the referee could do little to control it.
It was hard to grasp what this game was, or analyze it's tactical makeup. Peru played some brilliant defence - both collectively and in 1-on-1 situations. They may have been a disaster going forward, but at the very least, they completely annulled a very disappointing Colombia attacking trio of James-Bacca-Cuadrado. Cuadrado was the worst of the bunch - weak on the ball and unimaginative. Bacca could do little in a scheme that was rendered ineffective - he wasn't getting service, and Peru did well to close down channels.
Regardless of the brand of football displayed, this match was just one giant bundle of emotion, and James Rodriguez was the star of it. At the end of his country's national anthem, James channeled his inner LeBron James by screaming at the top of his lungs 'iVAMOS!', and by the time this match was over, he was in tears.
James starting for Colombia NT vs Peru pic.twitter.com/zE9DSFlVns— Real Madrid Info (@RMadridInfo) June 18, 2016
Video: Tears of joy for Colombia captain, James Rodríguez https://t.co/aMrZjlvzkL— RMadrid Info Videos (@RMadridInfoVid) June 18, 2016
And to be fair to James, he gutted through a physical match where players were barrelling over each other for 90 minutes. While he struggled initially on the left flank where he was isolated and closed down quickly, he grew more involved as the game progressed after he drifted to the middle and found pockets of space to run at defenders.
It was clear he was, by far, the most talented player on the entire pitch.
In Colombia's best chance from open play, James found space to curl a shot with his right foot, only to see it come off the post.
WOODWORK!! @jamesdrodriguez almost puts Colombia ahead in stunning fashion! #PERvCOL #CopaAmerica #beinauscopa https://t.co/c8BCdgexv0— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS_AUS) June 18, 2016
And while the best chance of the game actually came in the 90th minute to Peru - a header from a corner which goalkeeper David Ospina saved brilliantly - James had the last laugh. He scored the first penalty of the penalty shootout, setting the tone and ensuring Colombia advances to the next round.
Oh, here's a fun fact..
Former Real Madrid B player Christian Benavente came on as a substitute for Peru. His one contribution was to get hacked just outside the penalty area - a clear foul which the referee decided to ignore. Benavente was once a Real Madrid prodigy.