close
close
Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

Colombia beats Uruguay in sold-out Copa America semi-final in Charlotte

By meerna Jul11,2024
Colombia beats Uruguay in sold-out Copa America semi-final in Charlotte

Throngs of fans dressed in yellow and blue filled the streets of Charlotte and sang chants as they awaited the most prestigious football match the city has ever hosted.

Bank of America Stadium was nearly sold out as 70,644 fans travelled from near and far to watch 10-man Colombia beat Uruguay 1-0 in the Copa America semi-finals on Wednesday.

Buoyed by Jefferson Lerma’s goal and the large crowd in the stands, Colombia will head to Miami to play the final against reigning world champion and Copa America champion Argentina on Sunday.

Click to resize

Colombia midfielder Lerma Solis (16) reacts to his first-half goal against Uruguay during the Copa Armenica semi-final at Bank of America Stadium. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports Jim Dedmon Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Uruguay will remain in Charlotte and will face Canada in the third-place match on Saturday.

The semifinals of the world’s oldest international continental tournament drew ticket buyers from all 50 states and 60 countries to Charlotte, according to a Tepper Sports and Entertainment spokesman.

About two-thirds of the fans came from more than 100 miles away. Of the domestic attendees, 54% came from outside the Carolinas.

Two of those fans were Lucia Lopez and Agustin Aguerre — a mother and son who were born in Uruguay and traveled from their homes in Washington and New York to watch Wednesday’s semifinal.

They have both seen many Uruguay games — Aguerre was at La Celeste’s last Copa America triumph in 2011 — but haven’t been able to go to a match together since Aguerre was a boy. After Uruguay beat Brazil on penalties in Saturday’s quarterfinals, they both bought tickets and flew to Charlotte for the match.

“There were about 20 Colombians for every Uruguayan at the airport,” Aguerre said.

Fans before the Copa America semi-final match between Uruguay and Colombia at Bank of America Stadium. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports Jim Dedmon Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The stadium, which was largely decked out in yellow, celebrated the only goal of the match, when former Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Everton star James Rodriguez took a corner kick that found the head of Lerma, who slotted the ball into the net to give Colombia a 1-0 lead in the 39th minute.

The goal was greeted enthusiastically by Colombian fans, including a family consisting of three generations present at the match.

Edgar Ayerbe Sr., his son Edgar Ayerbe Jr. and daughter-in-law Jeannette Ayerbe, as well as their sons Alex and Max Ayerbe, traveled from Raleigh for the historic match. Ayerbe Sr., who was born in Cali, Colombia, estimates he has been to 15 to 20 Colombia games in his life and was able to accompany his grandchildren to their first Colombia game.

“Even MLS doesn’t look like that,” Max said.

“You’ve seen Messi, right?” his father interjected.

“Yes, I know, but it wasn’t like that, it wasn’t like that,” he replied — amid the noise of drums, trumpets and cheers from fans on both sides.

Fans before the Copa America semi-final match between Uruguay and Colombia at Bank of America Stadium. / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports Jim Dedmon Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

It is therefore not surprising that Dani Sandoval, Edgar Sr.’s nephew, was also among the guests.

He has traveled to every match of the tournament with Colombia with Parceros United, an organization and brand that organizes events and parties for Colombian fans before matches in different cities. Sandoval, who was born in Colombia and moved to the United States at age 12, founded the organization with his partner after traveling with Los Cafeteros in Russia for the 2018 World Cup.

Although Colombia had the upper hand in the game and took the lead with Lerma’s goal, a few minutes later most of the stands became much more tense when Colombia went to play with ten men after Daniel Munoz received a second yellow card.

Even in a tense second half in which Uruguay created chances to equalize, Colombia maintained their advantage in front of a thumping crowd in Charlotte, extending their unbeaten run to a record 28 matches — a streak that dates back to March 2022. After the final whistle, Uruguay and Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez jumped into the stands and traded blows with the fans.

Despite the ugly scenes at the end of the match, Colombia will have a chance to win its second Copa America title — its only previous triumph came in 2001 — on Sunday in Miami against Lionel Messi and Argentina. Their devoted fans who traveled to Charlotte will surely follow them.

Nicky Wolcott's profile picture

Nicky Wolcott recently graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and is interning in the sports section of The Charlotte Observer for the summer of 2024. He also covers high school sports for The Washington Post and was selected to cover Super Bowl LVIII as an intern for the Sports Business Journal earlier this year. He spent two years as the sports editor at The Diamondback, an independent student newspaper in Maryland.

By meerna

Related Post