Copa America Centenario ends on a successful note

Copa America Centenario ends on a successful note

The 45th edition of the Copa America Centenario was quite an occasion. It was beautiful. The special tournament held in the United States to commemorate the 100 years of South American premier continental football tournament, saw Chile defend their title in a penalty shootout against the favorites, Argentina.

And it is quite incredible to imagine that this fine showpiece, full of talent and superstars, ecstatic fans and very good organization, may not have happened due to the FIFA scandals that rocked the football world and had affected officials in both the North and South American football confederations, leading to the arrests of several high profile sports executives.

Nonetheless, after a cleanup, the tournament organization went ahead and what was served up was a treat for anyone who loves football. From the state of Carlifornia to Orlando city in Florida, from the northwest city of Seattle to the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts, there were goals, there were lovely individual performances, there were tensions, drama and plenty of upsets.

Take Argentina, for example. The world’s best side was expected to, at a canter, lift the Copa America, its first major trophy in a barren period of 23 years.  And the team should have as La Albiceleste had obliterated all, including its eventual conquerors, as the tournament went by.

But even with the world’s best player in its lineup, even with a plethora of stars in its ranks, Argentina couldn’t do the expected and with that, witnessed a third consecutive loss in a cup final in as many years. Raw emotions filled the players and in the heat of the moment, the tormented genius that was Lionel Messi felt he had had enough of the heartbreak as he promptly quit the international game.

Take also Uruguay and Brazil, two of the most decorated teams from the south. These sides couldn’t even qualify from the group stages. Uruguay was beaten to the quarters by Venezuela, the least seeded team in the tournament, and saw an uninvolved Luis Suarez’s tantrums come to the fore, while Brazil’s catastrophe was confirmed by Peru, a result that saw head coach Carlos Caetano Bledorn Verri, popularly known as Dunga, sacked by his federation.

However, Chile were deserved winners. La Roja had begun the tournament with a loss to Argentina, but the slow burner turned into a fiery furnace in subsequent games, especially during the 7-0 victory over Mexico in the quarters. And, as expected, the Juan Antonio Pizzi-led charges took individual honors.

Eduardo Vargas, the striker from the Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, scooped the Golden Boot award for his six goals in the tournament, Barcelona shot stopper, Claudio Bravo, won the Golden Glove award for the best goalkeeper, having saved nearly 70% of all shots against him, while Alexis Sanchez won the Golden Ball award for being the tournament’s most valuable player.

The centennial event had a match attendance of about 1.5million fans who watched the 32 matches across the 10 host venues, strewn from Pasadena to Houston, from Santa Clara to East Rutherford, Chicago and Philadelphia. Globally, the tourney was broadcast to about 160 countries, including Kenya, where StarTimes were the official broadcasters.

Coupled with great showings by the likes of Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and the host nation, Copa America Centenario will go down as one of the best Copa America tournaments due to the quality of the matches and also due to its commercial success. It was that good.

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