(Reuters) – James Rodriguez has looked back to his brilliant best at the Copa America and the Colombian said he is determined to take his side to their second trophy in the competition after they beat Panama 5-0 in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

The 32-year-old has impressed in the run by 2001 champions Colombia to the semi-finals, with his outstanding vision and defence-splitting passes leading to him notching five assists – tied with Lionel Messi (2021) for most assists in a single edition of the tournament.

Rodriguez’s creative ability once again caught the eye in the win over Panama, as he sent in a pin-point corner for the opener, before scoring an emphatic penalty and then providing the assist for Colombia’s third goal with a bit of quick thinking.

“A tough match, they are very strong, but we came in in a good way, we knew how to score the goals quickly and that gave us control of the match,” Rodriguez said after picking up his third player of the match award in four games.

“Did I want to be the best player of the Copa? Yes, I wanted to have a very good Cup, help my teammates to go far. We are going until the last day, let’s hope we can reach that great final that we all want, we are going through a good moment too.”

Rodriguez is once again Colombia’s main man, but he has had to fight to get here.

He burst into the limelight by winning the Golden Boot during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which earned him a high-profile move to LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

However, his club career never quite managed to reach the level he displayed for Colombia, and after a difficult stint at Real and an underwhelming loan spell at Bayern Munich, Rodriguez joined Everton in 2020.

He competed in the Premier League for one season and had equally short spells at Qatari side Al-Rayyan and Olympiakos, before joining Brazilian side Sao Paulo last year.

Rodriguez was left out of Colombia’s squad for the 2021 Copa America due to a lack of fitness, but has been fully reinstated in the team by Nestor Lorenzo.

Under Lorenzo, Colombia have evolved into one of South America’s best teams, going on a 27-match unbeaten run in which they have claimed massive wins over teams like Brazil and Germany.

“He is a great player, nothing to explain. He is a player who is happy on the pitch,” Lorenzo told reporters on Saturday.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard)

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