It has been a strange Copa America, the oldest international soccer tournament in the world. This year’s edition in Argentina has been full of surprises, and of one team continuing where its good work done in the 2010 World Cup.
Uruguay have been deserved winners of the Copa. Oscar Tabarez’s team stepped up when it really mattered, in the knockout rounds. They had a settled side, and it showed. Hardly any changes were seen from the team that narrowly missed out on a World Cup final berth last year. While they showed their fighting spirit against a technically superior Argentina, they showed their ruthlessness in the semis and the final where they were, well, favourites. Their dream forward line of Forlan and Suarez came good in the knockout rounds, while their defence was solid as ever. The Perreiras on either flank really impressed. I feel they have finally graduated from the underdog status to true South American heavyweights.
Paraguay had an interesting Copa. They didn’t win even one match going into the final, and it remained that way in the final too. Gerardo Martino’s team was thoroughly outplayed, but their journey upto that stage showed the grit and determination of the team as a whole. Another side to have a compact, well-settled line up. Their keeper was, without doubt, the star of the tournament. Justo Villar had an excellent Copa. Expect them to do still better things in the future.
Argentina and Brazil disappointed. To see them both bow out in the quarter finals in unceremonious fashion was unexpected. Undoubtedly, on paper they were the strongest teams of the Copa, with an abundance of talents. But their inability to gel on the field and also the tactical mistakes of their respective managers to an extent did them in. But there can be no excuses for Brazil to miss all 4 of their penalties in the penalty shootout vs. Paraguay.
The so-called minnows impressed a lot of observers. Venezuela’s and Peru’s march to the semis was good to see for the footballing health of the continent. Peru, eventual 3rd place finishers, had in their ranks the highest goal scorer of the tournament, Paulo Guerrero (5 goals).
One team I wanted to see more of was Columbia. They had the Porto duo of Falcao and Varela in their ranks, who had set the world alight for Porto last season. How they didn’t make it ahead in the tournament was hard to believe, with Falcao missing a penalty and a host of other chances to eventually bow out in the quarters.