We have come to the end of the Copa America Centenario, with Chile defending their title and ultimately able to hold the trophy for the full four years. This was the first time the Copa has been hosted outside of South America, and the first major tournament to be hosted by the United States since 1994. Highlights and blunders alike will be the main points of focus. But what were the biggest moments of all?
Biggest Winner: The Copa America Organizers
Wilmer Valdez stated earlier this month that the Copa America in the United States was a horrible idea. However, the longer the tournament went on, the quality shined brighter, more seats were sold, and the tournament started resembling what a Copa America is known for. Also, the facilitators of this tournament were overjoyed to see the United States go to the 3rd place match in Phoenix, where more tickets could be sold, and two of the top five teams in the world play in the final where the stadium would sell out regardless.
Final MVP: Arturo Vidal
He may have missed his penalty, but La Roja probably wouldn't have gotten to penalties at all without him. Chile’s #8 kept Messi in check for much of the match before being subbed late in extra time after Messi’s original marker, Diaz, was sent off after two yellows. His efforts kept Chile in the match during the fifteen minutes Argentina were up a player, and throughout the match during many of the build-up plays.
Biggest Surprise: The lack of finishing in regular time
Vargas, Sanchez, Higuain, Aguero, Di Maria, Messi…
Three shots on target. For two teams with arguably the best attacking fronts in the world, this statistic is unacceptable. Chile managed only two shots total (to Argentina’s 12). Yes, many opportunities were stuffed by cynical fouls (which is also the cause of a hunk of the cards). This game may be remembered and compared to other uninspiring finals such as Spain v Netherlands in South Africa.
Goat(s) of the Day: Marcel Diaz and Marcos Rojo
Both players took the physicality and roughness of this tournament to heart, and both received red cards for their efforts. Diaz can thank Rojo for the card only fifteen minutes after his own, otherwise the Argentines would have had a field day rather than a scrappy fight to the finish.
MLS Connection: Gonzalo Higuain
Really the only connection in this game (not even the stadium unless you rewind time over half a decade ago) is Federico’s brother. That’s no slight on MLS, as the majority of teams in this tournament - and a half dozen played for third place - showed skill on the highest competitive stage on the international level on this side of the hemisphere. I’m sure the Columbus Crew SC #10 was cheering on his #9 brother as well.
Good Moment/Bad Moment: Medel’s collision with the goal post
The scariest moment of the match came from a pickpocket attempt by Gonzalo Higuain, who rushed the keeper one-on-one and poked ahead a ball that ultimately rolled off target. However, Medel, the player whose pocket was picked, hurried back to attempt a goal line save and ran straight into the post, falling in a heap on the grass. Thankfully, he managed to pull himself up and walk off the pitch. He returned to play very quickly.
Final Whistle: An Ugly Game for an Ugly tournament, but it was beautiful in its own way
Copa America Centenario was hastily thrown together with only a handful of months to tackle the logistical challenges of hosting a tournament that would normally take four or more years. Mistakes were bound to happen. From Chile’s botched anthems in the group stage to controversial calls and handballs, unsold tickets and hateful chants, the tournament itself eventually turned around and displayed moments of brilliance that only the Copa America would. Argentina v Chile was no different; watching the dirty angels and the gritty Chilenos, the two teams battled out in the same way that defines their identities - brutal, yet beautiful.
Hasta luego, Copa Centenario.