It was supposed to be the tournament in which Argentina finally ended their 23-year drought for a major trophy, but instead it ended up with them losing a third final in three years, a defeat that was to have major repercussions. The victors, Chile, beat Argentina in a final for second time in as many years after a feisty 0-0 draw and penalty shoot-out. Lionel Messi missed his penalty and nearly sent Twitter into meltdown in the aftermath of the game, announcing his retirement from international football with immediate effect. There is more to this than meets the eye and I suspect it will all come out in the wash over the coming days. This story, however, shouldn’t detract from Chile’s deserved success, who we predicted before the tournament were joint favourites. Nor should the piss-up-in-a-brewery comments from COMNEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez who declared before the final that this was not a “real” Copa America despite previously stating that it was.
Predictably Group A saw the hosts United States and Colombia finish ahead of Costa Rica and Paraguay. These two team would eventually compete for the prestigious third-place prize (sarcasm alert!) which Colombia won 1-0 thanks to a Carlos Bacca goal.
In Group B Brazil were abject, failing to qualify for the quarter-finals at the hands of Peru and Ecuador. It was a failure that was to cost the hapless Dunga his job, the second time he has been binned off by the CBF.
There was a shock in Group C as Uruguay finished third and were eliminated. Tim Vickery declared that Uruguay’s coast-to-coast schedule was decided by a child with a map and a felt tip pen, and by the time Luis Suarez had arrived in the States following his injury the damage had already been done. He took out his frustration by pounding the poor dug out as he watched from the sidelines. The Mexican’s had a much more favourable schedule in their south-western strongholds and this was evident in their attendances. El Tri topped the group by beating Uruguay, Jamaica and drawing with surprise package Venezuela, who finished second and joined them in the quarter-finals.
Group D was perhaps the most predictable of them all, as Argentina progressed as the only team to win all three matches in the group phase. They even managed to beat Chile without Messi, but he came on against Panama and casually bagged a hat-trick in a 5-0 win. The aforementioned Chileans qualified, with Bolivia and Panama taking an early flight home following their adventure in the land of Uncle Sam.
Argentina eased past Venezuela 4-1 in the Quarter-Finals, and got off to a fine start with a beautiful goal by Gonzalo Higuian, who latched onto a perfect pass from Lionel Messi. A further goal by Higuain, one by Messi and one by Lamela made it four. The shock of the round came in front of 70,000 in Santa Clara’s Levis Stadium. The South American champions, Chile, beating Mexico isn’t necessarily a shock, but the manner of the victory was. Chile ran riot, winning 7-0 with four goals coming from Hoffenheim’s Eduardo Vargas.
In the Semi-Finals Argentina trounced the hosts the United States 4-0 with goals from Lavezzi, Messi and a brace from Higuain. The other match pitted Chile against Colombia in a storm-filled night in Chicago in which a two-and-a-half hour delay interrupted the game. Ultimately it wasn’t to matter as Chile ran out 2-0 winners thanks to two early goals.
The competition was mired in controversy before kick-off, due to the accusations of corruption, and the fact that South America’s continental competition was hijacked, bastardised, and transplanted to the United States for purely financial reasons. All that aside, it was a good tournament with plenty of goals and some lovely attacking football. Despite astronomically priced tickets attendances were generally very high, as were TV viewing figures. However, this should be seen with a little caution. As great as this spectacle may have been to the casual viewer and the money men, we have to be wary of the smaller nations being trodden on should this exercise be repeated. Chile will now look ahead to the 2019 version as champions. Whether or not Messi will be there remains to be seen.