Soccer-Resurgent Rodriguez inspires Colombia to Copa win over Paraguay

Jun 24, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Colombia full-back Daniel Munoz (21) is congratulated by midfielder James Rodriguez (10) after scoring a goal during the first half against Paraguay at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - James Rodriguez evoked memories of his breakthrough performance at the 2014 World Cup on Monday after the Colombia midfielder set up both goals in his team's 2-1 win over Paraguay in their Copa America opener.

The 32-year-old won the Golden Boot in Brazil a decade ago, his volleyed effort against Uruguay in the round of 16 still regarded as one of the World Cup's best ever goals, but his career has been on a downward track over the last few years.

After playing for the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Rodriguez joined Brazilian side Sao Paulo last year, making it his fourth club in as many seasons.

He played at Everton in 2020/2021 before being sold to Qatari side Al-Rayyan and then joining Olympiakos on a free transfer.

However, the Colombia captain was the difference in Monday's Group D game in Houston, Texas and was named Man of the Match.

"I'm very happy, it's important to start well today against a tough opponent like Paraguay," Rodriguez told Caracol Gol.

"We could have done better in the second half, but you correct things better when the team wins, it's much easier that way."

More than 60,000 Colombian fans at Houston's NRG Stadium gave Rodriguez a standing ovation as he left the field in stoppage time following a performance that has them hopeful of lifting the continental trophy again after a 23-year wait.

"It's beautiful, they are supporting us a lot. We have a long way to go in this Copa America and we're taking it one game at a time," Rodriguez added.

Colombia next face Costa Rica on Friday before taking on Brazil four days later.

(Reporting by Janina Nuno Rios in Mexico City; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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