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Well, that's a thoroughly disappointing Copa America over and done with, then. Fortunately, the final was nowhere near as poor as many of the other matches we've seen. It was, however, a little lopsided thanks to Paraguay's improbably run past a draw that looked as though Brazil and Chile were sure semifinalists, and Uruguay's superiority shone through all game.
It's not like it wasn't at least marginally fun, though. A Nestor Ortigoza handball that the referee failed to spot denied Sebastian Coates after Justo Villar had kept a powerful Diego Lugano header out of the powerful net, but if the favourites were miffed about not being awarded a penalty, they didn't let it get to them. Eight minutes later, a flaoted ball over the top found Luis Suarez, who cut the ball back and fired in a low shot.
It wouldn't have been particularly difficult for Villar to collect had it not taken a hideous deflection off a Paraguay defender, veering out wide and bouncing home off the far post. Suarez had the decency to look slightly embarrassed about it all, but the rest of his team cared not one whit - they had the lead in the final and considering Paraguay's normally formidable strike force had been significantly diminished by injuries to both Lucas Barrios and Roque Santa Cruz, it didn't seem particularly likely that they were going to relinquish it.
Much of the rest of the half involved Uruguay setting up shop in their own territory (admittedly whilst collecting enough yellow cards to build a small house), effortlessly repulsing Paraguay's feeble attacks and answering with the occasional fairly useless counter. The best of these ended with Villar saving well from Diego Forlan while one on one, but it was clear that there were more goals from Uruguay.
They got the second not on a counterattack but from an uncharacteristic defensive error by Ortigoza, who allowed Alvaro Gonzalez to strip him of the ball near the edge of his penalty area. With no defensive cover at all to clean up the mess, a pass found Forlan in miles of space, and the Atletico striker made no mistake in smashing an absolute rifle of a shot past Villar to make it 2-0 on the verge of halftime.
The second half saw Paraguay make a bit more of a fist of things, pushing hard to cut into the two-goal deficit. Mostly, they failed to trouble Fernando Muslera, but in one instance it required an absolutely brilliant stop by the now-Galatasaray man to keep out a lovely dipping volley from Nelson Valdez, who'd been fed by Ortigoza. Muslera got the slightest of touches on the shot, enough to deflect it onto the crossbar and eventually to safety.
The game continued in a Paraguay-tries-to-score-but-can't-so-don't sort of way, even after Uruguay introduced Edinson Cavani with half an hour to go. It was a bit of an odd move, considering that defence was something that they needed more than goalscoring, but one suspects that Cavani wasn't about to put up with being stuck on the bench for an entire final, minor knee injury or no, and so he was introduced.
Paraguay added a superstar striker of their own, deploying Lucas Barrios in the final fourteen minutes. While both Cavani and Barrios were injury risks, Barrios was the more likely to end up in trouble thanks to a recently-aggravated hamstring, and the decision to introduce him cost Paraguay dear at the end. The striker was chasing down a long punt forward with Coates in close attendance before collapsing, clutching the back of his thigh. It was a hamstring injury, and he was unable to continue.
As Barrios was Paragauy's third and final substitution, they were force to play the final few minutes with only ten men. Since they needed two goals, they threw bodies forward, but that left Uruguay's attacking trident far too much space, something they exploited brilliantly with perhaps the goal of the tournament. Cavani, Suarez and Forlan linked up, taking a total of three touches in Paraguay's half before Forlan rolled the ball past a helpless Villar. It was a phenomenal way to cap off a disappointing tournament.
Uruguay, of course, won't care about how odd the whole thing was. They emerge 3-0 winners of the 2011 Copa America final, and it's difficult to deny that it was well-deserved by Suarez and company. Paraguay, on the other hand... well, they hadn't won a single match in the competition yet, and there was never any threat of them changing that streak around now.
What a goal for Uruguay, and that just puts the cherry on the top of their Copa America win. They saved the best for last against 10-man Paraguay, pulling off probably the team move of the tournament that saw Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan combine for an absolutely stunning goal.
Cavani was played forward on the left side in order to start a counter attack.His first touch controlled the ball, and his second sent a raking diagonal across the pitch to pick out Suarez, who was making a paired run with Forlan from deep with only one defender to cover the two of them. Suarez, recognising that Forlan was free, met the Napoli man's ball with a cushioned header which killed the speed and allowed Forlan to reach the ball before goalkeeper Justo Villar did, and the Atletico striker made no mistake in slipping the ball into the back of the net. 3-0, game over, and now it is really game over - Uruguay have won the 2011 Copa America!
Well that's really bad news for Paraguay. Lucas Barrios didn't start against Uruguay, but he was introduced with his side down 2-0 with 14 minutes left. The reason the hitman - one of Paraguay's only true goal threats - didn't start was because he had a hamstring problem, and introducing him in the late stages came with a major risk of him re-aggravating it.
And re-aggravate his hamstring he has. Chasing a long ball over the top and engaged in a footrace with Urugay centre half Sebastian Coates, Barrios went down in a heap without any contact, grabbing his hamstring. It doesn't look particularly good for Paraguay, and now they're forced to play the rest of the game with ten men. Barrios had been their third and final substitute. So, that's five minutes to go, with a 2-0 lead and now a man advantage. Think Uruguay have this one in the bag?
About an hour into the 2011 Copa America final, and Uruguay have made their first change. It's a bit of an odd one at that, with Porto midfielder Alvaro Perreira being pulled in favour of Napoli's Edinson Cavani. Cavani, if you'll recall, was a starting forward when Uruguay began the tournament, but was injured in a group-stage match against Chile and hasn't featured since. Now he comes on at a time where Uruguay could do with their midfield being shored up, which is more than a little bit odd. Oh, and Napoli have promised to invade South America if he gets injured again, so that's nice.
Paraguay, meanwhile, are desperate, pouring towards goal as if their tournament depends on it (it does). They've given Fernando Muslera more to do in the past ten minutes than they did in the first half, and if they score... well, things could get interesting. It's still 2-0 Uruguay though, and with Cavani now on the pitch it wouldn't be surprising if the favourites grabbed another.
Paraguay just came very close to making this a game. Minutes after they had just about seen off the danger from that ever-threatening Uruguay tandem of Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, Paraguay only go up the other end of the pitch and nearly score. Nestor Ortigoza, who hasn't had the best game in the world, looped a ball in over the top for Nelson Valdez, who smashed a volley over the beaten Fernando Muslera and, agonisingly, off the face of the crossbar and back out.
Bad luck, that. Or was it? Replays seem to indicate that it was actually a very fine save indeed by Uruguay's goalkeeper, Muslera getting a fingertip or two to the vicious shot, enough to keep it out. The favourites have Muslera to thank for keeping the game at 2-0 and within their grasp - if Paraguay had scored there the game might actually have become interesting again.
Footballing justice is being served. Paraguay, who bored everyone into oblivion en route to the Copa America final is getting dominated and that is exactly how it should be. A pounding is what they deserve to take after what they made everyone watch in their five previous Copa America matches and Uruguay is giving them quite the pounding. Uruguay took Paraguay behind the woodshed as soon as the match started and after goals by Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan, they have themselves a 2-0 halftime lead.
It was just two minutes into the match that Uruguay made it clear that they were going to pressure Paraguay all match long. Off of a corner kick, Diego Lugano came flying in with a great header than Justo Villar was barely able to keep from crossing the line. The rebound was quickly put back on goal and looked like it would go in until Nestor Ortigoza handled the ball to keep it out. The referee did not see it though and play went on.
Uruguay continued to dominate and in the 11th minute they finally got their goal. Luis Suarez ran onto a ball over the top of the Paraguay defense and cut back to create space between him and a scrambling defender. His shot from the right side was struck well, but got a bit of help from a deflection before bouncing off the inside of the post and in for a goal. The deflection may have been fortunate, but no one will cry for Paraguay and Uruguay fully deserved to be ahead 1-0.
After the opening tally, the match got ugly. The referee took every chance he had to give a card and both teams gave him plenty of chances with several bad challenges. It looked like the match might stay 1-0 the rest of the way as both teams ignored the ball and started kicking each other.
As halftime drew close, Uruguay stopped with some of the dirty play and began playing football again. Their dominance reasserted, Uruguay even got themselves a second goal. Egidio Arvealo Rios took the ball from an unsuspecting Ortigoza 35 yards from goal and quickly found a streaking Diego Forlan on the left. Forlan ripped his shot past the helpless Villar and Uruguay had themselves a 2-0 lead going into halftime, just 45 minutes away from Copa America glory.
Game over? Game probably over. Paragauy's defence, which neither Brazil nor Venezuela succeeded in penetrating in previous rounds, makes an absolutely shambolic error right at the end of the first half, Nestor Ortigoza allowing himself to be tackled with no cover near the edge of the penalty box.That's bad news when you're playing against a team with a front line the calibre of Uruguay's.
Three light blue shirts pounce, and the ball is eventually fed to Diego Forlan on the right and in acres of space. Forlan had previously missed a fairly routine one on one with Justo Villar, but there wasn't a whole lot that the goalkeeper could do about this shot, rifled straight into the back of the net to make it 2-0. Paraguay were barely threatening down by just one, and their opponents now look like they've got this thing well and truly in the bag. Urguay for Copa America 2011 champions, then? It wouldn't be undeserved.
It's 1-0 to Uruguay in the 2011 Copa America final, and now this game will be terrible. Why? Because Uruguay don't need to score again and, barring a miracle, Paraguay are incapable of scoring. This means that the game is being played entirely in midfield and there are about 47 fouls committed a minute (that's an estimate, so don't hold me to that one). Since Suarez's goal, the only interesting moments have been the yellow cards handed out to Victor Caceres, Diego Perez, Martin Caceres and Maxi Perriera.
In other words, the game has been monumentally boring. This is what happens when one team tries to counterattack against a team that can't attack. Of course, as I write that, Diego Forlan attempts to prove me wrong with a breakaway chance, racing up the centre to challenge Justo Villar in the Paraguay net. It is, unsurprisingly, kept out, but Uruguay have already threatened from corners and now they've got another one... which comes to nothing. Of course.
It doesn't take long for Uruguay to get that goal they were denied by the Nestor Ortigoza handball in the first few minites, and it's that man Luis Suarez who breaks the deadlock, latching onto a ball lofted over the top of the Paraguay defence, cutting back to lose his marker, and sending in a deflected effort off Justo Villar's right hand post and in. The goalkeeper was absolutely hopeless to stop that one.
For all of their faults in previous games, Paraguay aren't actually playing too badly at the moment. They've made some nice plays - in the Uruguay half, no less - and that's led to a weakening of the defence and thus a goal conceded. They've been a very negative side so far in this tournament, but that's only because if they don't play like that, they're going to be in trouble.
Anyway. It's Uruguay up by one in the 2011 Copa America final, and they look pretty comfortably in control.
The 2011 Copa Americ final between Uruguay and Paraguay has kicked off, with Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez getting us going for the men in light blue. It doesn't take long for Paraguay to press hard and recover the ball, but Uruguay recover and push forward. Some excellent work by Suarez sees him battle against the Paraguay back line and goalkeeper Justo Villar ensure that a corner is all the favourites earn.
From the corner, Diego Lugano leaps up and powers a header goalwards, a thumping effort barely kept out by Villar. The rebout, however, was goalbound - until, that is, a raised hand by Nestor Ortigoza saw the ball cleared to safety. There was, bizarrely, no penalty, and Paraguay were able to scramble clear. A breathtaking start to this game, eh? Uruguay should be ahead. Oh, and for everyone saying how ironic it is that Uruguay were denied a goal via handball on the line, in that game, Ghana were awarded a penalty. Which they missed. Anyway, still 0-0 so far.
The Uruguay trainer was finally able to deliver some good news, saying that Edinson Cavani was fit to play in the Copa America final. The striker injured himself just minutes into Uruguay's second match of the tournament and has been absent since being taken off at halftime of that match. Now he is ready to go for Uruguay, giving the favorites just another weapon to go to with the tournament on the line.
Cavani may have declared himself fit to play, but he will not be starting in the final. Manager Oscar Tabarez has opted to stick with the 4-4-2 formation that got Uruguay got to the final with Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez up top instead of the 4-3-3 with Cavani in the team.
Even though he is not starting though, Cavani can make a huge impact coming off the bench. He is far superior to any option Paraguay has off the bench. Heck, he's far superior to any option Paraguay has starting and if Paraguay play defensive, negative football just trying to manage a scoreless draw then win it in penalties, Cavani could be the man to come off the bench and break the deadlock.
The final match of Copa America 2011 is now just minutes away and Uruguay and Paraguay have decided on the teams that they will send out to try to capture the trophy. Uruguay is going with the same team that got them to the final, playing a 4-4-2 with Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez up top and Sebastian Coates joining the always dependable Diego Lugano in the center of defense. The only change is Diego Perez rejoining the team in the midfield after sitting out the semifinal match with a suspension.
Paraguay has decided to finally bench Lucas Barrios, taking their most famous player off of the field in the biggest match of the tournament. That's not much of a surprise considering how awful Barrios has been this tournament, but to see him on the bench will be strange. Pablo Zeballos has come into the team for him and will make just his second competitive start, but the real question for Paraguay is where they will get width in the midfield. The four they have put forward will really struggle to even get within spitting distance of the sideline.
Uruguay (4-4-2): Fernando Muslera; Maxi Pereira, Diego Lugano, Sebastian Coates, Martin Caceres; Alvaro Gonzalez, Diego Perez, Egidio Arevalo Rios, Alvaro Pereira; Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez
Due to fantastic technological advancements that have happened in the world in the last couple dozen years, you can watch the final of the 2011 Copa America wherever you live, despite the fact that the game is being played in Argentina. What up, 21st century? The final between Uruguay and Paraguay is available both on television and streaming live online, all across the world. Here's all of the info on the game.
Uruguay vs. Paraguay, 2011 Copa America Final
Time: 3:00 P.M. ET
Venue: Estadio Monumental, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Television: Univision (United States), ESPN UK (United Kingdom), TLN (Canada)
Online: Youtube (Internationally, including United States, UK, and Canada)
Settle in for what should be a great final. Paraguay haven't won a game yet in this tournament, drawing five straight times. Their defense will be seriously tested today, though, as they try to contain Uruguay's Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan. We'll have coverage throughout the match, so keep it on this StoryStream.
You will be very hard pressed to find a neutral who is rooting for Paraguay to win the final of the 2011 Copa America. That is, a neutral who actually likes football and who does not always root for terrible things to happen because they find terrible things to be amusing. They've been boring. They've lead for 54 minutes in five games, two of which have gone into extra time. They haven't won yet in this tournament, getting to the final with five draws. They're negative, boring, and in my opinion, bad for football. I will likely receive hate mail for this and I don't really care, mostly because notable football writer Jonathan Wilson agrees with me.
Regarding the semifinal between Paraguay and Venezuela:
If you didn't see the match: No, this isn't harsh. This was a very, very bad game, and Venezuela probably deserved to win it in the first 120 minutes. Unfortunately for them, Paraguay's defense is quite good, and their penalty takers are even better.
Paraguay got here by drawing six times, winning none, and losing none. Incredible. And disheartening.
A Uruguay win is the bookies' favorite over a Paraguay win on penalty kicks, which I would never bet on in a billion years. Doesn't this feel like destiny? Six draws, three penalty shootout victories, and a major international trophy. It'll set football back decades.
Though the road to the final of the 2011 Copa America has not been particularly easy or glamorous for Uruguay, they've gone about their business in a much more...okay, I'll say it...deserving way than their opponents Paraguay. Like Paraguay, they haven't lost a game, but unlike Paraguay, they've showed ambition and looked capable of winning every single game that they have played in.
Uruguay got off to a slow start in their first game against Peru, drawing 1-1. Jose Paolo Guerrero surprised everyone by opening the scoring, but Luis Suarez scored the equalizer right before halftime. The second half of the game was not nearly as good as the first as Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan struggled while Uruguay limped to a 1-1 draw.
Their second game was against a very talented Chile team, so one can forgive them for drawing again. It was once again a 1-1 draw, as two very similarly talented teams played a predictably even match. Uruguay's breakthrough would finally come in their final group stage game against Mexico, where they won 1-0 to take second place in their group, behind Chile.
They drew hosts Argentina in their first knockout stage game, and that match was arguably the best one of the entire tournament. Diego Perez scored the opener just five minutes into the game, but he was quickly answered by Gonzalo Higuain, who equalized in the 17th minute. Perez was sent off just before the stroke of halftime, leaving Uruguay to play with just ten men for the rest of the game. They did well to match Argentina in the second half, as both teams created chances but neither could score. Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera put in a spectacular performance, making a number of key saves.
Just before the game went into extra time, Argentina's Javier Mascherano picked up a red card of his own, making it a 10 v 10 game. Both teams created chances in extra time, but neither scored, sending the match to penalties. Uruguay took five brilliant spot kicks while Muslera made a great save on Carlos Tevez's penalty, giving Uruguay the 5-4 win on penalties and sending them through to the semifinals.
Once there, Uruguay got their revenge on Peru by defeating them 2-0, sending them to the third place game. Peru's defense was fantastic in the first 45 minutes, but Luis Suarez quickly took over the game in the second half, scoring two goals before the 60th minute to give his team a deserved 2-0 victory.
Uruguay will now face the best defensive team in the tournament in the final, so Suarez and Forlan will have to recreate the magic that they had at the World Cup if they want to hoist the Copa America.
Major international tournaments have always been a place for players from lesser known teams and leagues to showcase their skills in front of a wide audience, and it's no surprise that the 2011 Copa America falls into that category. Most of the players who will be contesting the final between Paraguay and Uruguay are already playing for major European teams or are veterans past the point of making a major move, but their are a couple players on each team who could improve their transfer stock if they put in a good performance on Sunday.
Paraguay's Nestor Ortigoza hasn't been an automatic first choice player, as he fights with Victor Caceres and Cristian Riveros for minutes, but he's gotten plenty of playing time in this tournament and he's impressed, for the most part. He's a talented central midfielder who just recently moved to San Lorenzo from Argentinos Juniors in the Argentine Primera, but at 26 years old, the time might be right for him to make a move to Europe. The aforementioned Caceres also fits into that category, but after he put in a good World Cup last summer, it seems as if he might be okay with staying put.
Uruguay also have a player who could be on the move soon, but for central defender Sebastian Coates, the question is more about when and where, not if. Sometime in the near future, the monstrous 6'5" 20-year-old star will be moving abroad, with both Manchester City and Arsenal rumored to be interested in his services. Coates hasn't yet been tested at the highest level, but he will get his chance to play there in the very near future.
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.
In praise of the penalty shootout: nobody wants to see a game decided like this, except everybody.
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