Colombia beats Uruguay 1-0 and will face Lionel Messi and Argentina in Copa America final

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jefferson Lerma scored in the 39th minute, and Colombia played a man short the entire second half in a 1-0 win over Uruguay on Wednesday night to reach the Copa America final against Lionel Messi and Argentina.

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Daniel Munoz was ejected in first-half stoppage time for his second yellow card, but Colombia held on to reach the championship for the first time since winning its only Copa title as host in 2001. Colombia extended its unbeaten streak to a team record 28 games, one more than from 1992-94 and the longest current streak in men’s international soccer.

In a contentious match that included seven yellow cards and one red, players from both teams pushed and shoved in a scrum on the field at the final whistle. Darwin Nunez and about a dozen Uruguay teammates went into the stands as fans brawled. A video showed Nunez hitting a fan in Colombian team colors.

Defending champion Argentina and Colombia meet Sunday night at Miami Gardens, Florida. The Albiceleste are seeking a record 16th Copa title and are looking to join Spain from 2008-12 as the only countries to win three straight major championships.

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Uruguay stays in Charlotte to meet Canada in Saturday night’s third-place match.

Before an overwhelmingly pro-Colombia crowd of 70,644 that filled Bank of America Stadium with yellow jerseys and flags, Uruguay fell behind for the first time in the tournament.

James Rodriguez’s corner kick was headed in from short range by Lerma, who outjumped Jose Maria Gimenez for his third international goal and second of the tournament. Rodriguez has six assists in the tournament — triple the total of any other player.

Munoz received his first yellow card from Mexican referee Cesar Ramos in the 31st minute for a reckless slide tackle on Maximiliano Araujo and his second for elbowing Manuel Ugarte in the stomach.

Rodriguez was given a yellow card in the 55th minute for arguing with Ramos when the referee failed to stop play after Richard Rios was kicked on a shin by Darwin Nunez.

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Rios was removed on a stretcher, re-entered the match, then went down in another challenge and was substituted in the 62nd minute. Rodriguez was removed at the same time to keep him eligible for the final.

Colombia goalkeeper Camilo Vargas didn’t have to make his first save until he stopped Nicolas de la Cruz in the 68th minute.

Luis Suarez, Uruguay’s career leader with 68 goals, entered in the 66th minute and hit the outside of a post with a shot in the 71st. He grasped his head in his hands in disgust.

Colombia’s Mateus Uribe, another second-half sub, put an open shot wide in the 88th, and Uribe’s open shot in the fourth minute of stoppage time ricocheted off the body of sliding goalkeeper Sergio Rochet and then the crossbar.

Uruguay moved Rochet up the field in the final minute, desparate for a goal.

The match was played in 90-degree heat on a surface that was converted from artificial turf to grass in the weeks leading up the game.

Players on the NFL’s Carolina Panthers have been outspoken about soccer teams having the luxury of playing on grass on their home field. NFL games at venue are played on artificial turf, which players say leaves them more susceptible to injuries.

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