There were some highlights to the Copa America: Oswaldo Vizcarrondo was the best defender in the tournament, and could get a move to Europe this transfer window, and Peru and Venezuela have emerged out of the blue. How good would Venezuela be if Thomas Rincon hadn’t suspended himself for most of the knockout rounds? It might have just been the necessary spark to beat Paraguay, and Peru’s final 3 goals in the third-place match all came because of a lack of numbers at the back.
But undoubtedly, the big story is Uruguay, who were the best South American team at the last World Cup, and now this Copa America. They had a few star players: Luis Suarez, ready to replace Forlan in the national team, Muslera, and Alvaro Pereira. But their team play was the key factor to their victory. Suarez and Forlan had a chemistry unlike any other on national teams, like they had been playing together for years. Everybody was willing to defend, and they caught opponents whenever they lost concentration for a second. Both goals against Peru came when I briefly looked away from the screen, while the second goal in the final came off a forced defensive error.
So it was Oscar Tabarez who was their star, as their development throughout the tournament also proves. In the group stage, they played free-flowing football, but the strikers couldn’t score, and the defense made some unexpected errors. Still, the framework to victory was set in the group stage.
In the knockout stages the defense and forwards were miraculously better, but Argentina still looked a tough task. Argentina bossed the game, but never looked that likely to score more than one.
After that, it was plain sailing.
Their opponents in the final, Paraguay, were accused of playing only for a penalty shootout, but they may have been the most exciting team in the group stage.
They played thrilling 3-3, and 2-2 games, and were unlucky not to top their group, being the better side in all three of their matches.
It was only after they changed to a defensive system that they looked the likelier losers. The games against Brazil and Venezuela could both have ended 3-0 losses, like the game against Uruguay did.
In a way, the luck was only evening itself out, since Brazil and Venezuela had been the lucky teams when they met in the group stage.
Still, it is hard to escape the feeling that only luck and goalkeeping got them to the final.