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Chile and Argentina can save Copa America

The Copa America final should be excellent. The tournament hasn't thrilled so far, but Chile vs. Argentina is a spectacular final, and their match could make watching this tournament finally worth it.

Even Messi doesn't seem happy with this Copa.
Even Messi doesn't seem happy with this Copa.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Copa America is almost over. Chile and Argentina are set to square off in the final. That's the pairing many expected coming in to the tournament, so you'd think all has gone as expected, right?


With the rise in profile and skill of a number of South American teams over the past four years, we were hoping for and expecting a scintillating tournament. Goals galore, dazzling play, thrilling matches -- we had high hopes, and reason to think they could be achieved based on recent play from many of the CONMEBOL clubs.


We thought Brazil could reign again. We thought Colombia could dance further into our hearts. We thought Uruguay could intrigue. We thought Mexico might actually do ... any damn thing, really.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Instead we got a group stage where almost half the matches ended 1-0. Bolivia made the quarterfinals on the strength of being less crap than Ecuador or Mexico. Brazil were bad, then Neymar got thrown out of the tournament for fighting Carlos Bacca after a match and then being awful to a referee, and Brazil got way, way worse. Colombia were just lifeless. Uruguay? Ugh.

Even the two finalists, Chile and Argentina, have had plenty of lumps. Chile have looked much more flat than anyone expected, with Alexis Sanchez almost a passenger at times, and their midfield struggling for any kind of consistency. They won the opener against Ecuador easily enough, then were shocked in a 3-3 draw against a bad Mexico team before taking out their frustration in a 5-0 thumping of an also-not-good Bolivia team.

Sadly, Chile's problems aren't just in how they're playing -- Gonzalo Jara was thrown out of the tournament for sexually assaulting Edinson Cavani on the pitch. That came a week after Arturo Vidal was arrested for drunk driving after getting hammered and crashing his Ferrari with his wife in the passenger seat.


Luckily for Argentina, their issues have all been on the pitch. The Albiceleste's problem is that they simply haven't played anywhere near their actual level yet. They were stunned in their Copa America opener when Paraguay came back to steal a 2-2 draw, then had to scrape and claw to earn a pair of 1-0 wins over poor Uruguay and Jamaica teams. Then came the quarterfinals, and Argentina couldn't even score a goal in 90 minutes against a deeply disappointing Colombia team, relying on a penalty shootout to win that match.

Sure, Argentina blasted Paraguay 6-1 in the semifinal, but that was just them finally doing what was expected of them. Paraguay played like crap, and Argentina punished them for it. It's what they're supposed to do.

Coming into the final, both Chile and Argentina have earned one five-goal win over a not-very-good team, a shock draw against a team they should have thrashed, and a bunch of wins that were vaguely disappointing thanks to sub-par performances. But now that each side is facing their best opponent of the tournament so far, things can actually get kicked up a notch.

Chile and Argentina are going head to head in a match between two quality teams -- or at least between the best two teams in the tournament, with their actual level of quality left somewhat debatable by everything that's happened the last few weeks. This is honestly the first such genuinely top-level matchup all tournament long, so maybe now -- finally -- we can get the high-quality, endlessly entertaining match we've been waiting a month for.