The 47th edition of the Copa America is getting ever closer as we look forward to South America’s leading international competition. While Argentina are currently favourites to lift the trophy this year, ahead of the tournament we’re revisiting the most iconic and stand-out moments that the Copa America has conjured up.
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Argentina enjoy a Maradona masterclass
There aren’t many accolades Diego Maradona didn’t collect in his storied career, but one that did allude the Argentine was the Copa America.
Nonetheless, with the tournament being held in his home nation in 1989, he put on a masterful show of skill, trickery, and genius as he single-handedly conducted the Argentinian attack. Ultimately, it wasn’t to be for Maradona or Argentina in the tournament itself as Uruguay celebrated their 13th title, but thanks to his style and impudence, it was Maradona who was the star of the show.
Martin Palermo’s penalty nightmare
Colombia beat Argentina 3-0 in the 1999 group stage, but the scoreline only tells part of the story of one of the most eventful fixtures that the Copa America has ever seen. In a match featuring an astounding five penalties, Ivan Cordoba opened the scoring from the spot on the 10th minute, although Hamilton Ricard’s later effort was saved by goalkeeper German Burgos.
However, Argentina squandered golden opportunities to get back in the game as striker Martin Palermo staggeringly missed three penalties over the course of the match. Colombia celebrated earning a vital three points, but it was Palermo who grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Honduras stun Brazil in 2001
Tournament minnows Honduras achieved arguably the biggest upset in Copa America history when they defeated Brazil 2-0 in 2001, on a night that Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari famously described as “horrible”.
While Brazil were without Cafu, Roberto Carlos, and Romario, they were still overwhelming favourites to beat the team only invited to participate as last-minute replacements for Argentina, who refused to travel after CONMEBOL reversed an earlier decision to postpone the competition and staged it with only six days’ notice.
An own goal by Juliano Belletti broke the deadlock before Saul Martinez’ injury-time effort sent Honduras to the semi-finals. This match lives long in Honduran history as one of their greatest results of all time.
Colombia win their first Copa America on home soil
Colombia both hosted and won the tournament in 2001 after defeating Mexico 1-0 in Bogota in the final, meaning ‘La Tricolor’ became only the second nation to win the Copa America in their own country. The nation’s impressive run to the final saw them top Group A with three wins before beating Peru in the quarter-finals and then Brazil’s aforementioned conquerors Honduras in the last four.
In the final, Francisco Maturana’s men triumphed by a single goal thanks to defender Ivan Cordoba’s 65th-minute header, securing what remains Colombia’s sole Copa America triumph.
Brazil triumph in 2004 after late drama
In one of many finals contested between Brazil and Argentina, the conclusion to the 2004 Copa America featured plenty of drama.
Cesar Delgado’s 87th-minute strike looked to have won the title for Marcelo Bielsa’s Argentina, only for Brazil striker Adriano to break Argentine hearts with a 93rd-minute equaliser. The momentum had swung Brazil’s way and they went on to win the trophy 4-2 on penalties, firmly exhibiting both the joy and anguish that a penalty shoot-out can bring.
Doni’s penalty heroics
Brazil and Uruguay participated in one of tensest penalty shoot-outs ever seen in the 2007 semi-finals. The match finished 2-2 after goals from Brazil’s Maicon and Julio Baptista were matched by strikes from Uruguay’s Diego Forlan and Sebastian Abreu.
Instead, the tie came down to who could hold their nerve in a penalty shoot-out that had to be settled on sudden death. After full-back Gilberto scored his spot kick, goalkeeper Doni pulled off the match-winning save to deny Diego Lugano and send Brazil to the final.
Brazil dominate Argentina in 2007
The two giants of South American soccer also met in the 2007 Copa America final, but many didn’t expect just how one-sided this match would be. Brazil arrived at the tournament without several notable names from their 2006 World Cup squad, including Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo, and Adriano, but that didn’t prevent them from dispatching Argentina 3-0.
Led instead by the formidable skill of Robinho, goals from Julio Baptista and Dani Alves plus an own-goal by Argentina captain Roberto Ayala secured the trophy for the ‘Selecao’. Argentina were left to lick their wounds as the rivalry between the two nations intensified even more.
Chile thrash Mexico 7-0 in 2016
Chile turned in one of the finest Copa America performances ever to famously defeat Mexico 7-0 in the 2016 quarter-finals.
The feat was made more impressive by the fact the Mexico entered the game on a 22-game unbeaten run before ‘El Tri’ endured a humbling night against the defending champions. Chile forward Eduardo Vargas capped a scintillating team performance with four goals as ‘La Roja’ dismantled one of the tournament favourites in emphatic style.
Messi’s brilliant hat-trick downs Panama
When Panama found themselves trailing against Argentina after an hour during the 2016 group stage, they probably weren’t thrilled when their opponents decided to substitute on Lionel Messi.
Their worst fears were then realised when Messi stole the show with a brilliant 30-minute hat-trick to secure a 5-0 victory for his country. His first goal was an opportunistic strike after a ricochet fell invitingly that was followed a sublime free-kick, before he rounded off a fantastic cameo appearance by curling home a third goal with his left foot.
Chile win back-to-back titles on penalties
The 2015 Copa America was a historic one for Chile. As hosts of the tournament led by the attacking talents of Alexis Sanchez, they met Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the final. A goalless draw ensued, before the Chileans triumphed on penalties to secure their very first Copa America title.
In 2016, they then joined the select list of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay to become the latest team to win back-to-back Copa Americas. The final played out in eerily similar fashion as Chile once again beat Argentina on penalties following a goalless 120 minutes, with Messi missing the decisive spot kick.
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