After a scintillating 2007 tournament, Copa America was expected to be the highlight of the summer. Lionel Messi was going to cement his status as best player in the world as Argentina looked to end a 18-year trophy-less streak on home turf. Brazil was going to try to reassert their dominance in South America, while Uruguay would try to prove that their semifinal run in last summer's World Cup was not a fluke. Even the teams not quite on the top tier had stars like Radamel Falcao, Alexis Sanchez and Antonio Valencia that would entertain and play enjoyable, attacking football.
This year's Copa America has not gone as planned at all. Argentina and Brazil? They lacked imagination and struggled to qualify for the knockout stages before being eliminated in the quarterfinals. Eight matches in the group stage ended in draws and two knockout stage matches ended 0-0 and required penalties. The quality of soccer was poor and the refereeing equally as poor. Teams were conservative, stars were shackled and the flair that normally highlights South American football was absent.
What we're left with is one match between Uruguay and Paraguay for the tournament crown. If the football gods are just they will give us the world's greatest match to make up for everything we've had to put up with leading to the final, but that doesn't look likely. That's because Paraguay is in the final, a team that has yet to win a match all tournament and has played some of the most boring, negative football ever seen.
Paraguay drew all three of their group stage matches and only advanced to the knockout stages because of goal difference. They've yet to score in the knockout stages too, but they've kept consecutive clean sheets and advanced through the quarterfinals and semifinals because of their success on penalty kicks. How much of an accomplishment it is to keep a clean sheet with 10 men behind the ball is up for debate though.
Keeping a clean sheet against Uruguay will take some doing though. Luis Suarez has been in top form all tournament, highlighted by two goal in Uruguay's semifinal win. Where he's really made his impact is by drawing foul after foul. While Diego Forlan may be a step slow, he still plays a great ball on set pieces and Suarez drawing fouls has set Forlan up time and time again. Add that to Diego Perez in the midfield, who will return from suspension in the final, and Uruguay have some top talent in the attack that have only played better as the tournament has gone on.
The attack could get even more dangerous though. Edinson Cavani came off at halftime of Uruguay's second tournament match with a knee injury and hasn't played since, but there is some hope that he could return for the final. Even if he can only come off the bench, a striker of Cavani's quality will only increase the pressure on Paraguay if they show no ambition to score and instead park the bus in the hopes of another scoreless draw and penalty win.
For Uruguay, the final is a chance at history. If they can topple Paraguay they will capture their 15th Copa America title, breaking a tie with Argentina for the most in history. A large contingent of Uruguayans are expected to make the trek to Buenos Aires, Argentina to support their team in search of a record title. Whether history, and justice, is served remains to be seen though. In a tournament full of shocks, surprises and disappointments, there is every chance that a repugnant Paraguay side will walk away with the trophy in another 0-0 draw.