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For Messi, retiring is a nonverbal apology

Copa America
Read

Ramos: Messi picks worst time to "retire"

Lionel Messi
Read
 By Tim Vickery

Colombia's win down to Carlos Sanchez dominating Neymar

It was a night when Santiago turned into Bogota, or Barranquilla, Medellin or Cali. Brazil's 100 percent record under Dunga came to an end as Colombia held on to beat them by a single goal, accompanied by the roars and the vuvuzelas of the packed Colombian support.

This game had been billed as a clash between Neymar and James Rodriguez, however the real contest was between Neymar and Colombia's holding midfielder Carlos Sanchez -- and it was a clash with a clear winner.

Four years ago in the previous Copa America, Sanchez produced a fine man marking performance to keep Lionel Messi quiet. On Wednesday his role was even more important, for a number of reasons.

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ColombiaColombia
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First, because after a disastrous opening day defeat to Venezuela, Colombia really needed something from this game. The stakes were high. And also because Neymar is even more important to Brazil than Messi is to Argentina.

Dunga's team is worryingly dependent on him -- and worryingly dependent on attacking speed. Slow them down, slow Neymar down, and the battle is well on the way to being won.

Sanchez rose to the task with a superb performance of defensive midfield play. He kept a close watch on Neymar, looking to stop his surges at source. He won tackle after tackle against the Brazil captain. Neymar was reduced to a petulant figure, who picked up a second yellow card in two games, and topped it off with a red card at the end of the match.

Once again, a match against Colombia has taken Neymar out of a tournament. Even coach Dunga is unclear at this stage how many matches his captain will be suspended for. At least he has a chance to see what his players can do without their attacking talisman.

Colombia's big problem against Venezuela -- a lack of midfield elaboration -- was not an impediment in this match. This time there was no obligation on the Colombians to take the initiative.

They could sit deep to neutralise Brazil's pace, and either launch the ball forward for their twin strikers, Radamel Falcao and Teofilo Gutierrez, or rely on bursts of pace from Juan Cuadrado and Rodriguez. Colombia, then, could afford to spoil and speculate.

At every turn, Colombia's Carlos Sanchez was there to quash Neymar's influence.

Sanchez gave them the platform to do it, and they grew in confidence as the first half wore on. Brazil's frustration showed itself in a number of ill-disciplined fouls. One of them proved decisive; Cuadrado curled in a free kick to the far post and -- not for the first time -- Brazil struggled to clear a set piece. Jeison Murillo took advantage with a swivel shot into the corner.

With Brazil rattled, Colombia had chances to score a second, notably when Falcao wasted a counter attack, greedily firing over when others were better placed.

At half time Brazil introduced Phillipe Coutinho for Fred on the left of midfield, but the main change was that Neymar moved up front -- to get him away from Sanchez -- and Roberto Firmino dropped deeper. There was some promising interplay between the two, but the best chance they created was a complete gift; Murillo's back-pass played keeper David Ospina short, and in the resultant melee the ball fell to Firmino with the goal gaping, but he leant back and sent his shot over the bar.

Brazil exerted a second half stranglehold, and Colombia coach Jose Pekerman made the obvious change to tighten up his side, withdrawing Falcao and introducing Victor Ibarbo on the left of midfield, forming a five man block, augmented by the noise made by every Colombian in the crowd.

Their celebrations at the final whistle were well justified. This is the first time that Colombia have beaten Brazil since the last time the Copa America was held in Chile -- on July 13, 1991, when James Rodriguez had been alive for a single day.

Tim Vickery covers South American football for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Vickery.

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