It’s the chance to watch the best players on the planet fight it out in the ultimate competition. Yes, it’s that time again; the Copa America is upon us. It’s this tournament that we look forward to above all others. There’s a certain legacy and reputation attached to South American football. The continent has birthed some of the world’s all-time best players. Pele, Ronaldo, the other Ronaldo! But, this is not just a legacy of the past. The best players on the planet right now are South American. Nearly 75% of the top European strikers call South America home. There’s something magical about this tournament, and that’s why we love it.
The Copa America is the world’s oldest continental football tournament. It has now run for nearly a century, albeit, with a few hiccups along the way. Between the 1930s and the 1960s, the tournament was plagued by inconsistency. Since then, we’re back on track, with the competition taking place every two years. It’s a fantastic schedule, and it means we don’t have to wait four years like the world cup.
This year’s event takes place in Chile, although it was supposed to be in Brazil. The football body, CONMEBOL (their FIFA equivalent), traditionally choose host nations in alphabetical order. But, Brazil offered the hosting job to Chile after taking on responsibility for the Olympics and the World Cup.
Uruguay lift the Copa America Trophy in 2011
Uruguay are the defending champions. They took home the trophy in host nation Argentina in 2011. They beat Paraguay 3-0 in the final to secure their 15th win. That result continued Uruguay’s legacy as the most prolific team in the competition. No-one has won more Copa America trophies than Uruguay. Twelve teams will fight it out in this year’s event. The Copa America is also intriguing because they invite two teams from outside the continent to compete. The USA are regularly asked and compete against the host nations. This year Mexico and Jamaica will complete the twelve team lineup. Japan and China were initially asked, but declined.
Not only is it the oldest continental tournament, it is also the most widely viewed. The entire Spanish-speaking world tunes in to watch the best players in the world. It is also unique in that it boasts two trophies. The first, the Copa America, is presented to the winners. The Copa Bolivia is given to the runners-up. Both were donated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
So, what exactly makes South American football so exciting? There’s a reason that most of Europe’s club strikers are from that continent! The likes of Messi, Neymar, Tevez, Suarez and Ronaldo dominate the Serie A and La Liga goal tally. In England, Diego Costa and Sanchez are regular goalscorers. Experts put it down to the tradition of street football in South America. The skill, precision, and sheer hunger is born on the streets of Brazil, Argentina and Chile. The best managers also point to a desire, drive, and passion that isn’t easily found in other players.
Whatever it is, we love it. The skill, the pace and the sheer goal scoring ability doesn’t exist anywhere else on the planet. The Copa America pulls that all together. Bring it on.