Following unsuccessful semi-final fixtures, Carlos Bacca scored the only goal of the match in the 31st minute in Arizona as Colombia recorded their best performance at the Copa America since they won South America’s premier tournament in 2001.
Bacca netted his 13th international goal after scrambling the ball into the net from close range following a stunning throughball from captain James Rodriguez in a rematch of the Centenario curtain-raiser, which Jose Pekerman and Co. won 2-0 earlier this month.
USA did have their chances, with Bobby Wood going close and Clint Dempsey’s set-piece forcing Colombia goalkeeper David Ospina into a fine save.
Both teams finished the clash with 10 men, following late red cards to Michael Orozco and Santiago Arias.
Jurgen Klinsmann made six changes in the wake of the 4-0 drubbing to Argentina, a couple enforced as John Brooks and Fabian Johnson succumbed to injuries with Matt Besler and Orozco their replacements. Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya returned from suspension at the expense of Graham Zusi, Chris Wondolowski and Kyle Beckerman, while veteran keeper Tim Howard made his first appearance of the tournament.
Colombia, meanwhile, reinstated Bacca and Guillermo Celis as Roger Martinez and Carlos Sanchez made way following the 2-0 semi-final defeat to defending champions Chile.
USA controlled most of the play from midfield early but Colombia looked more threatening in attack, highlighted in the 14th minute after a probing delivery from Arias forced Geoff Cameron into a diving headed clearance inside the six-yard box.
Colombia continued to threaten as USA had their first real clear opening after Dempsey’s shot was scrambled away by the last-ditch Cristian Zapata.
The deadlock was eventually broken just past the half-hour mark thanks to Bacca, though James’ throughball in the lead-up stole the show.
A clever chip over the top from James picked out Arias and the full-back headed the ball across the six-yard box to Bacca, who sliced the ball into the net on the goal line.
USA went in search of an equaliser but they were unsuccessful prior to the break, and they came close early in the second half when Ospina produced a fantastic save to deny Dempsey from a free-kick six minutes after interval.
It should have been 2-0 on the hour-mark but Juan Cuadrado’s sublime chip from outside of the area hit the crossbar and the frame of the goal foiled players again, this time from USA, after Wood’s shot cannoned off the post just minutes later.
Wood was in the thick of the action again, his tenacity forcing an opening but he overplayed his attempt as Dempsey pounced and sent the loose ball agonisingly wide of the post.
Both teams had further opportunities to score but neither could find the back of the net as USA lost another third-place play-off to Colombia after going down in 1995.
Orozco and Arias were involved in a tangle in stoppage time, resulting in red cards for both in a fiery finish.