It was a memorable Copa América, with hosts Chile ending their 99-year wait to lift their first ever international trophy, while it wasn’t quite the same for Argentina as Lionel Messi’s men’s 22-year drought without a title continues and the frustration back at home grows stronger.
The tournament was full of attacking, positive football, big tackling players and fantastic goals. It was certainly a much more entertaining Copa América than the last one where defences came out on top. It was only right the final was contested between the two most entertaining teams – Chile and Argentina. The final wasn’t one for the ages, however, the home nation came out on top. After 26 matches in under a month, here is my Copa América team of the tournament.
GK – David Ospina (Colombia)
The competition wasn’t blessed with world-class goalkeeping but Ospina really stepped up to the plate for Colombia. With the pressure of Petr Cech joining him at Arsenal and more than likely taking his place in the line-up, Ospina put in a number of performances that reminded Arsene Wenger of what he can do. He conceded just the one goal in four matches and was mesmerising during the quarter-final against Argentina, most notably tipping a Lionel Messi header onto the bar prior to keeping out Sergio Aguero.
DF – Mauricio Isla (Chile)
If you watched Isla during his spell in England with Queens Park Rangers you’d be wondering if Chile had the same player. It seems whenever Isla pulls on the Chile shirt his passion and talent shines and it was no different in the Copa America. Isla was influential going forward and also got back to fulfil his defensive responsibilities. The right-back put the nation on his shoulders when he scored the winner in an anxious quarter-final match against Uruguay.
DF – Gary Medel (Chile)
Medel is another example of a player who really steps up for the national team. His aggressive, tough tackling side came out and playing as a defender his range of passing was key, enabling Chile to retain possession and play out from the back. Medel’s was dominant in the air and always seemed to be in the right place with a well timed, last ditch tackle. He was key in the final, limiting the influence of Lionel Messi and shutting out Sergio Aguero.
DF – Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina)
Otamendi at 27 is a lot older than many expect, the former Vélez and Porto man has established himself as a starter in the Argentinian defence, at the 2010 World Cup, Diego Maradona played him at right-back any many questioned Otamendi’s ability. He was the most impressive centre back at the tournament and controlled the Argentina back-line. He won the ball in the air and on the floor was resillent and organised. He was an important factor that enabled Argentina to keep four clean sheets in six games.
DF – Jeison Murillo (Colombia)
Colombia were a disappointment this tournament, they lacked firepower going forward and only scored one goal. The goal came from none other than Murillo. He showed all the qualities of an established defender and his maturity shone through as the 23 year-old was the highlight of a very substandard Colombia side. He is quick and led the back line with authority you’d expect from Colombian legend Mario Yepes, who’s shoes Murillo seems to have filled. He will join Inter Milan from Spanish side Granada and judging by his performances at the Copa America, it’s a very good buy.
MID – Arturo Vidal (Chile)
Many a question mark has been raised over Vidal and whether he should have been allowed to continue playing in the tournament after being arrested for drink driving during the group stages. Jorge Sampaoli put the case aside and did what was best for his team. His faith in ‘King Arturo’ was greatly repaid as the midfielder provided countless exceptional performances. Vidal was powerful going forward and had the baggage to match defensively whilst contributing three goals in the competition. His range of passing is magnificent and he is very clever with and without the ball. He also scored a penalty in the final shootout. Vidal is a real driving force for Chile and a vital cog in their wheel.
MID – Charles Aranguiz (Chile)
A solid midfielder throughout the competition, Aranguiz was Chile’s unsung hero who developed as the competition went on. His versatility shone and his importance to the Chilean side was there to be seen. There were times where he would make driving runs forward into the oppositions box then others where he would limit the opponents space and make perfectly timed tackles. In the final he was fantastic, combining both sides of his game, his performances haven’t gone unnoticed with Chelsea reportedly interested in the midfielder.
MID – Jorge Valdivia (Chile)
Valdivia was sensational from start to finish, and is my player of the tournament. He really stepped up when it mattered and found his form, then never looked back. His creativity was a big influence for Chile throughout the tournament and he finished the tournament with three assists (the joint most amount). Valdivia was the man to get Chile out of the hole, his vision and pin-point passes unlocked opposition defences, and although he didn’t score his ability to effect a team were clear to see. His work rate was first class and he even helped out defensively winning the ball back and starting attacks. It’s very hard to find a moment where Valdivia made a mistake. At the age of 31, the big move to Europe now seems a distant possibility, however, his Copa América may just increase his chances.
FWD – Angel Di Maria (Argentina)
After missing out on the World Cup final in 2014, Di Maria was ready to prove himself on the main stage, however, unfortunately lightning did strike twice and Di Maria was substituted just half an hour into the final with a leg muscle injury. Nevertheless, his performances throughout the competition reminded us all of his ability. Di Maria looked unstoppable at times, his pace was frightening, and his deliveries for his teammates were perfect. He was direct throughout the competition and contributed with both goals and assists. After a bumpy year at Manchester United, Angel’s performances and influence may just remind Louis van Gaal why he spent so much money on the Argentine.
FWD – Paolo Guerrero (Peru)
Very little was expected of Peru and finishing third is a massive achievement for them, they’ve been poor throughout World Cup qualifying and haven’t had the best of results in recent times so their third place finish was a massive overachievement however their entertaining football was a pleasure to watch. Guerrero finished the tournament as joint top scorer with four goals, but there is a lot more to his game than scoring. He was important to Peru’s build up play, he was able to hold the ball up and then play out wide to the wingers. Guerrero’s ability to win headers and intelligent movement caused defenders all sorts of problems.
FWD – Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Once again, Messi failed to win an international final with Argentina, the World Cup final last year and the Copa América this year added to this, Argentina have lost a third Copa America final in four years. Messi was sublime in the semi-final against Paraguay but, unfortunately, he couldn’t recapture this in the final. He was surrounded whenever he got the ball and was kicked down if he had beaten his man. Throughout the whole tournament he was influential and pulled Argentina through the rough at times. He was doing all he could to help La Albiceleste lift the famous trophy and despite coming under some stick, he still makes my team. Messi really is a joy to watch.
Manager – Jorge Sampaoli (Chile)
The Argentine managers shone at the Copa América and it would be harsh if I didn’t mention Ricardo Gareca of Peru, Ramón Diaz from Paraguay and Gerardo Martino of Argentina. In fact, all four teams in the semi-finals had an Argentinian manager. The Chile boss takes the accolade for best manager; his defence was solid and Chile’s fast-paced attacks made the late nights much more bearable. He could have easily dropped Vidal after his off-the-pitch trouble but he put his faith in the midfielder and that faith was definitely repaid. Gonzalo Jara’s “wrongdoings” could have easily unsettled the team but Sampaoli kept them on track. It was clear to see Chile had chemistry and wanted to win for each other, and most importantly their manager. His substitutions worked and, ultimately, he helped end Chile’s 99-year wait for the Copa America title.
By Callum Read – @