May 14, 2021
May 14, 2021

The history of the Copa America

The origins of the Copa America

Who has won the most Copa Americas?

Who has scored the most goals in Copa America history?

Facts and stats from Copa America history

The history of the Copa America

The 47th edition of the Copa America gets underway this year on June 13. Ahead of the tournament, here’s everything you need to know about South America’s most famous soccer competition, as well as an assortment of interesting stats, facts, and figures from its history.

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The origins of the Copa America

The first edition of the Copa America (known then as the South American Football Championship) was held in Argentina from July 2 to 17, 1916 as part of the country’s centennial independence celebrations. The tournament featured Argentina alongside Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay, with the latter toping the four-team group to be crowned the first ever official South American soccer champions.

Due to its popularity, the tournament was held again in Uruguay the following year, as they successfully defended their title while winning all of their matches without conceding a goal. From 1919, it was then staged annually, with Paraguay becoming the fifth team to compete when they substituted for Chile in 1921.

The competition expanded to five teams for the first time in 1922, while Bolivia and Peru made their debuts in 1926 and 1927 respectively. However, the tournament then underwent consistent disruptions, being held on only seven occasions between 1929 and 1945 with teams frequently withdrawing due to a variety of reasons.

For the first (and to date, only) time, the tournament was held twice in the same year in 1959. Following the 1967 edition that was once again both hosted and won by Uruguay, it was agreed to indefinitely retire the competition amidst waning interest and political problems across the continent.

CONMEBOL teams at the Copa America

Team

No. of participations

Debut

Argentina

42

1916

Bolivia

27

1926

Brazil

36

1916

Chile

39

1916

Colombia

22

1945

Ecuador

28

1939

Paraguay

37

1921

Peru

32

1927

Uruguay

44

1916

Venezuela

18

1967

The Copa America today

In 1975, it returned and was rebranded as the Copa America, complete with a renewed format featuring all 10 CONMEBOL countries for the first time playing matches throughout the year without a designated host nation. A knockout bracket was also introduced, with teams competing in three groups to earn a spot in the semi-finals.

A total of eight non-CONMEBOL countries have competed at the Copa America.

It was also agreed that the tournament would be held every four years, switching to every two years from 1987, every three years from 2001, and back to every four years from 2015. In 1987, the tournament returned to having a host nation, who have since typically staged it in June and/or July.

In 1993, Mexico and the United States became the first non-CONMEBOL countries invited to compete, in order to ensure that every group contained the same number of teams. This honour has since also been extended to Costa Rica, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Japan, Panama, and Qatar.

The Copa America Centenario, a special bonus edition of the competition celebrating its 100th anniversary, was held in the United States in 2016, marking the first time it took place outside of South America. At the most recent tournament in 2019, Brazil were both hosts and champions, defeating Peru 3-1 in the final.

This year’s tournament was originally scheduled for last year following an agreement that the Copa America would match the years of the UEFA European Championship, before being postponed as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Who has won the most Copa Americas?

Uruguay are the most successful team in Copa America history with 15 titles to their name, the most recent of which came in 2011. They are followed closely by Argentina with 14 trophies and Brazil on nine.

No other team has won the Copa America more than twice, with Chile, Paraguay, and Peru each lifting the trophy on two occasions and Bolivia and Colombia both achieving the feat once. Ecuador and Venezuela are both yet to win the Copa America in their 46 attempts between them. It has also never been won by a non-CONMEBOL team, although Mexico were runners-up in both 1993 and 2001.

Copa America winners

Team

Wins

Years

Uruguay

15

1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956,
1959 (second edition), 1967, 1983, 1987, 1995, 2011

Argentina

14

1921, 1925, 1927, 1929, 1937, 1941, 1945, 1946,
1947, 1955, 1957, 1959 (first edition), 1991, 1993

Brazil

9

1919, 1922, 1949, 1989, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2007, 2019

Chile

2

2015, 2016

Paraguay

2

1953, 1979

Peru

2

1939, 1975

Bolivia

1

1963

Colombia

1

2001

Who has scored the most goals in Copa America history?

Argentina midfielder Noberto Mendez and Brazil legend Zizinho are the joint all-time leading goal scorers in Copa America history, having both netted 17 goals at the tournament. All but two of Mendez’s 19 Argentina goals were scored in the Copa America and he was also the joint top-scorer at the 1945 tournament that he helped his country win.

Meanwhile, Zizinho (who was rated by Pele as his greatest ever teammate) only won the tournament once in 1949, but was part of the Brazil team that recorded the biggest ever winning margin in a final when they thrashed Paraguay 7-0.

Jair da Rosa Pinto (Brazil, 1949), Humberto Maschio (Argentina, 1957), and Javier Ambrois (Uruguay, 1957) share the record for the most goals at a single Copa America tournament with nine, while Hector Scarone (Uruguay, 1926), Juan Marvezzi (Argentina, 1941), and Evaristo de Macedo (Brazil, 1957) are the only players to ever score five goals in a Copa America match.

All-time Copa America top goal scorers

Player

Country

Goals

Noberto Mendez

Argentina

17

Zizinho

Brazil

Lolo Fernandez

Peru

15

Severino Varela

Uruguay

Paolo Guerrero

Peru

14

Ademir

Brazil

13

Gabriel Batistuta

Argentina

Jair

Brazil

Jose Manuel Moreno

Argentina

Hector Scarone

Uruguay

Facts and stats from Copa America history

Uruguay have racked up both the most participations (44) and matches played (201) at the Copa America, but it is Argentina who can boast the most wins (122) and goals scored (462). Argentina have also reached the final on the most occasions with 28, meaning they have recorded an exact 50% win rate in Copa America finals, and they are the only team to win three editions in a row, doing so in 1945, 1946, and 1947.

Argentina have averaged the most points per game at the Copa America (2.08).

Guillermo Stabile, who coached Argentina for over two decades between 1939 and 1960, is the most successful manager in Copa America history, winning the tournament on six occasions. He is also the manager to clock up the most matches in the competition with 44.

Angel Romano’s six titles won with Uruguay between 1916 and 1926 means he is the most decorated player in the tournament’s history, having impressively lifted the trophy at all but three editions he participated in. However, the honour of the most capped player in Copa America history is shared between Chile’s Sergio Livingstone and the aforementioned Zizinho, who both made 34 appearances at the tournament.

Argentina’s emphatic 12-0 victory against Ecuador in 1942 is the biggest winning margin ever witnessed at the Copa America, and is also responsible for the most goals scored by a team in a Copa America fixture.

In terms of the more unwanted records, Chile have endured the most losses at the Copa America (86) while Ecuador have conceded the most goals (318). A total of four teams have never won a match at the Copa America – Jamaica, Japan, Haiti and Qatar – and Jamaica is also the only side to never score a goal at the tournament, failing to do so during both of their appearances in 2015 and 2016.

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