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Copa America verdict: Best and worst game, best goal, biggest surprise, more

Now that the 2016 Copa America has come to an end, we asked our writers to reflect on its highs and lows.


Tim Vickery: I enjoyed Argentina's semifinal display in the 4-0 win vs. the U.S. and Chile's 7-0 quarterfinal rout of Mexico immensely; they were magnificent team performances. But in terms of a game involving two teams, I think I might have to go with Ecuador 2-2 Peru. The Peruvians started out like a train, with Ecuador straining to get back in it.

Jeff Carlisle: Argentina 2-1 Chile: This was soccer at its finest, with two teams intent on attacking and imposing their respective styles on the other. If only the final had been as entertaining.

Doug McIntyre: Argentina 2-1 Chile. Unlike the final, this one featured goals and open play at a breakneck pace even without the injured Lionel Messi. A far cry from Sunday's cagey encounter.

Tom Marshall: Brazil 0-1 Peru. In a tournament that lacked a genuine standout classic, Brazil's emotional exit against a gritty Peru (as well as some lackluster refereeing) was gripping.

Nick Dorrington: Ecuador 2-2 Peru. Half an hour of Peruvian dominance, a spirited comeback from Ecuador, and then 30 minutes of frantic, end-to-end football to finish.

Mexico's early win vs. Uruguay set the tone for a fun and unpredictable tournament.

Sam Kelly: Unusually, some of the early group games were great in this Copa. Argentina's win over Chile was fun, but I think Mexico 3-1 Uruguay probably topped it. It was end-to-end, it could have gone either way for most of the game, and it had a wild finish.

Jason Davis: Chile 4-2 Panama. The tournament didn't deliver too many great games, but Chile and Panama managed to at least entertain with six combined goals.

Noah Davis: From a cathartic United States perspective, the 4-0 win over Costa Rica. From an entertainment perspective, the Colombia 2-3 Costa Rica match went back and forth. From a combined quality/importance/wow! perspective, Colombia 0-2 Chile was everything.


Tim: Costa Rica 0-0 Paraguay. The first half actually showed a little bit of promise, but the game died off, a victim of the intense afternoon Orlando heat.

Jeff: Costa Rica 0-0 Paraguay. The person who decided that scheduling a game in Orlando's late-afternoon heat should be charged with crimes against humanity. That is just brutal on the players. No wonder the game was a clunker.

Doug: June 4: Costa Rica 0-0 Paraguay. American and Colombian fans who watched this foul-fest because of its implications for Group A rue the two hours they'll never get back.

Tom: Costa Rica 0-0 Paraguay. No goals, not much quality, and fewer than 15,000 people in the Camping World Stadium.

Nick: The 0-0 quarterfinal between Colombia and Peru was a bitty, attritional game of fouls, theatrics and very few chances.

Sam: Peru 0-0 Colombia in the quarterfinals was about bad enough to have been transplanted in from Euro 2016.

Jason: Brazil 0-0 Ecuador. A group-stage snoozer most notable for the missed call on what should have been a howler by Brazil keeper Alisson.

Noah: Mexico 0-7 Chile. American fans surely enjoyed the destruction, but seeing a dispirited Mexico fall apart and more or less give up was difficult to watch.

Costa Rica and Paraguay wilted in the Orlando heat en route to a dismal 0-0 draw in the worst game of the Copa.


Tim: Messi's free kick vs. the U.S. is the one everyone will remember because of its historical importance. From a team point of view, almost all of the goals that Chile scored vs. Mexico. But how about Christian Cueva (Peru vs. Ecuador), Victor Ayala (Paraguay vs. Colombia) or Jesus Corona (Mexico vs. Venezuela)? Magic moments.

Jeff: Messi vs. the U.S. wins it. One can argue that Brad Guzan should have done better, but Messi's strike was superb. He couldn't have placed the ball any better than if he had picked up the ball, walked to the goal line and thrown it in.

Doug: For me, it was either Ayala's rocket (Paraguay vs. Colombia) or Messi's inch-perfect free kick versus the U.S. in the semis. In honor of his apparent retirement, I'll go with Messi.

Tom: "Tecatito" Corona for Mexico vs. Venezuela. A stunning solo effort out of nowhere in Mexico's hour of need against a tough opponent.

Nick: Gonzalo Higuain's opener in the quarterfinal (Argentina vs. Venezuela) was wonderfully executed: a lovely curled pass into the area from Messi met perfectly on the slide for a crisp finish into the corner.

Sam: Objectively, probably Corona (Mexico vs. Venezuela), but Messi's superb free kick against the U.S. runs it very close and with the addition of the context -- overtaking Gabriel Batistuta to put him out on his own as Argentina's all-time top scorer -- might even pip it.

Jason: Messi (Argentina vs. U.S.). His perfect set-piece placement across goal was the highlight of his tournament ahead of their disappointment in the final.

Noah: Messi's free kick (Argentina vs. U.S.). In a massive game, with a huge crowd watching, the little man made magic. And as a bonus (for Argentina), it effectively ended the semifinal before halftime.


Tim: Venezuela going so long without conceding a goal.

Jeff: Normally I would say Brazil's flameout in the group stage or perhaps Mexico's 7-0 capitulation to Chile. But Messi's apparent retirement from international soccer dwarfs everything else. One can only hope that he'll reconsider once the sting of the final defeat wears off a little (and the Argentina Football Association gets its act together). The thought of Russia 2018 happening without him is too depressing to contemplate.

Doug: Messi saying after the crushing final defeat that he's "done playing" for Argentina. After the way he played in this tournament -- save the final -- I don't think anyone saw that coming.

Tom: Venezuela. With the federation in deep trouble, players resigning en masse from the national team late last year and World Cup qualifying, not much was expected of the Vinotinto. The victory against Uruguay was memorable and the players articulated their pride in playing for a nation in crisis with a lot of dignity.

Venezuela celebrating
Nobody expected Venezuela to win a game, let alone escape the group, but they showed that their future is bright.

Nick: Venezuela making it out of their group. They rode their luck at times, but to do so on the back of just one win (and nine defeats) in their previous 15 matches reflected positively on the work that Rafael Dudamel and his staff have done since taking over at the start of April.

Sam: That American fans (at least from down here, on Twitter) were so scathing about a decent run to the semifinals of a senior international competition that was always going to be rather trickier than the Gold Cup. I understand the arguments the fans were making, I'm just surprised the comments have been so vehement.

Jason: Mexico's utter capitulation in the quarterfinals against Chile. El Tri losing to Chile might not have been a surprise, but the manner in which they lost was.

Noah: Picking the Brazilian dumpster fire is too easy. For me, it was the newly found conservatism of Jurgen Klinsmann. His lineup choices were downright predictable.


Tim: Matias Vecino arrived as Uruguay's long-term central midfield solution and then got himself sent off in the first half against Mexico. Set a disappointing tone.

Jeff: Gonzalo Higuain. For all the talk about Messi's penalty miss, it never gets to that point if Higuain converts his first-half breakaway. Yes, he scored goals earlier in the tournament, but he failed to convert when it mattered most.

Doug: Luis Suarez didn't play a minute because of injury, although he clearly wanted to. After Brazil's Neymar opted to play in the Olympics instead of the Copa, this was was extra unfortunate.

Tom: Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez scored once in four games and failed to level Jared Borgetti's Mexico record. More was expected on the field, and the fact he didn't stop to talk to the media -- aside from after the 7-0 loss to Chile -- was also disappointing for one of the tournament's biggest stars.

Suarez Anger Uruguay vs Venezuela
Not seeing Luis Suarez on the field was a major disappointment of the 2016 Copa.

Nick: I don't know if it would be fair to say that he was the worst player in the tournament, but Michael Bradley and his frequent concessions of possession left a far-from-positive impression.

Sam: Given expectations and that he comes from a nation who've boasted the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo this century, I don't know what Jonas is doing describing himself as a forward. Or, arguably, a footballer.

Jason: Suarez, specifically because he played no part in Uruguay's tournament despite being named to the team. His visible frustration as Uruguay exited the tournament remains one of this Copa's indelible images.

Noah: Neymar. Is that fair? The Brazilian superstar opted to play in the Rio Olympics, which is understandable, but his team failed to reach the knockout round while dramatically underwhelming.


Tim: Professional shames such as press boxes behind glass and not being able to broadcast in the press box. Plus, the absence of press centres where you hang out and exchange views and information; all of this is part of a Copa tradition that was ignored.

Jeff: The corruption that characterized the early organizing efforts is tough to look past, but, in terms of the tournament itself, the scheduling left plenty to be desired. The U.S. won Group A and was rewarded with a cross-country flight to Seattle. Paraguay played in Orlando, L.A. and then Philadelphia. The U.S. also had two more days' rest than Argentina, not that it mattered in the end. If good soccer is the goal, let's try to ease the travel burden on some teams and make it more equitable.

Doug: Mistakenly playing Chile's national anthem instead of Uruguay's before a group stage match against Mexico was an utter embarrassment. The only saving grace was the class with which the Uruguayans reacted to the miscue.

Tom: The poor state of certain pitches, the high ticket prices and the draconian restrictions in terms of live streaming for media that weren't rightsholders.

Nick: The high ticket prices, which ensured low attendance for a number of the less high-profile group-stage matches and priced some supporters out of the knockout games.

Sam: Sorry to be a party pooper, but the fact it took place at all.

Jason: Bad refereeing that affected a number of games, most notably the card-strewn final and the goal that knocked Brazil out of the tournament.

Noah: The chant that Mexican fans yell before every goal kick continues to be disgusting, but that has been going on for some time. For this tournament specifically, I'll say the attendance has to be the most disappointing thing, specifically 12,000 in Phoenix, 14,000 in Orlando, 19,000 in Boston, 20,000 in Seattle, 23,000 in Philadelphia.


Tim: I get the feeling that we're at the start of something, though I would prefer to see it continued at the club level instead, where the synergies could be stronger. A tournament for the best teams in the Libertadores and the CONCACAF Champions League would be great: both confederations get to keep their identities, and it minimizes the risk of the weaker, smaller CONCACAF nations simply being carved out.

Jeff: Yes. While it is true that the initial organizing efforts were corrupt and the organization was suspect in some areas, the idea of a tournament for all of the Americas is still a good one. Granted, CONCACAF still has some catching up to do in a footballing sense, but tournaments like this can only help.

Doug: Absolutely. For my money, the quality of play at this tournament was significantly higher than what we've seen so far at the Euros. It was a privilege to cover it. I'd love to see it played every year if possible.

Tom: Yes. Why not? It makes perfect sense for both. CONCACAF needs the competition and CONMEBOL needs the money the tournament provides. It's a win/win. Surely it is only a matter of time before this becomes a regular thing.

Nick: Not really, for two reasons: It is simply too big a strain on the best players -- and their clubs -- to expect them to play three or four tournaments in each and every four-year World Cup cycle. Also, both continents have their own competitions and care should be taken not to devalue them, particularly in CONCACAF's case.

Sam: In the long term, yes; in the short term, no. Yes because the format works better than a 12-team Copa and allows a greater variety of teams to be involved; no in the short term because suggestions that it should always be hosted in the U.S., taking the tournament away from the continent that gave birth to it, are just one of a large number of issues that would need ironing out.

Jason: Certainly, although the holding it only in the United States would affect my outlook. A combined championship of the Americas could help both confederations, but it would need to be rotated between countries to have real value.

Noah: Yes. This Copa America was far from perfect, but I'd like to see how successful it could be if the powers that be were given the proper time to promote the tournament. It was fun; let's do it again. (But not in the United States every time, OK?)


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