The History of the Copa America – Part Two

The South American Championship resumed after an eight year break in 1975, rebranded as the Copa America and with a new format. After an erratic history of withdrawals and irregular tournaments, CONMEBOL introduced a format which saw all 10 nations compete home and away over a three-month period.

The holders Uruguay were given a bye into the semi-finals, the remaining teams drawn into three groups of three, playing home and away, with the winners reaching the semi-finals. The tournament was won by the great Peruvian side, including Teofilo Cubilas, who would humiliate Scotland three years later in the World Cup. They clinched their second title by beating Colombia in a play-off after sharing one win each in the two legged final.

World Champions Argentina finished bottom of Group B in 1979 behind Brazil and Bolivia. Paraguay were first time winners, awarded the trophy with a 3-1 aggregate win over Chile after the teams could not be separated over three games. 1983 saw Uruguay claim a 12th title, beating a Brazilian side containing Zico, Socrates et al over two legs in the final.

CONMEBOL decided in 1987 to revert to the tournament being held in one country over a three week period. The finals would rotate between all 10 member nations on a two year cycle. Argentina hosted the first tournament with the holders receiving a bye into the semi-finals, the remaining nine teams drawn into three groups. Chile shocked Brazil by beating them 4-0 to make the semi-finals, but they were beaten by Uruguay in the final.

1989 in Brazil saw another tweak to the tournament’s format, this time the ten nations drawn into two groups of five, the top two in each section making up a round robin to decide the title. On home soil Brazil won their first title of any kind since the great World Cup winning side of Mexico ‘70. Bebeto with six goals helping Brazil sweep the final group to win a first Copa in 40 years. Chile 1991 saw Argentina end a long drought, winning their 13th title, their first since 1959, finishing a point clear of Brazil, after a 3-2 win in the final group with Gabriel Batistuta grabbing the winner.

Ecuador 1993 saw the move to the current format. To make the numbers up to 12 teams, CONMEBOL extended an invitation to Mexico and the USA to take part. The top two and the two best third placed teams made the last eight. Mexico, on debut scraped into the quarter-finals as one of the third placed teams, but reached the final meeting Argentina in the final. The 2-1 win is the last of their record 14 titles. 1995 saw the tournament played in Uruguay with the USA, fresh from hosting the World Cup 12 months previously the surprise package, demolishing Argentina 3-0 in the group phase. Their run ended with a 1-0 loss to Brazil in the semi-final. The host nation equalling Argentina’s 14 titles with a penalty shootout win over Brazil.

1997 saw the tournament played in Bolivia. World Champions Brazil beating the hosts 3-1 in the final. 1999 in Paraguay saw Japan become the first Non-American team to take part but they picked up just one point in a draw with Bolivia. The group stage saw a remarkable game between Colombia and Argentina, with Martin Palermo missing three penalties for the Albicelestes in a 3-0 defeat a result which forced them to face Brazil in the quarter-finals – the holders triumphing on their way to a second consecutive title, beating Uruguay 3-0 in the final.

The 2001 tournament in Colombia was problematic. The political situation in the country saw a move to Venezuela, before a last minute change of heart saw it return to the original hosts. Due to worries over the safety of their players, both Canada, and more damagingly to the tournament Argentina withdrew. Honduras replaced the Canadians at the last minute, providing one of the biggest shocks in the tournaments history with a 2-0 win over Brazil in the quarter-finals. Colombia went on to win the tournament for the first time beating Mexico 1-0 in the final.

There was a three year gap before Peru in 2004, Brazil showing great reserves to win a third title in four tournaments with a stoppage-time equaliser in the final against Argentina preceding a penalty shoot-out triumph.

The last edition in 2007 was the first to be held in Venezuela. The hosts delighted their fans by making the quarter-finals for the first time, before being crushed by Uruguay. It was Brazil though who continued their remarkable run of success, making it four wins out of five tournaments as they beat Argentina 3-0 in the final.

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