Copa America Final: Two Guays, One Cup.
Apologies for the lack of Copa America coverage since Brazil & Argentina went out, first of all. I’ve been busy and didn’t watch either of the semis or the 3rd place game yesterday. Congrats to Peru, first of all, and also to Venezuela for making such radical improvements in their game.
Here is the basic problem and essential delight about today’s final in Argentina: it’s solid, well-structured, attacking football (Uruguay) against the brutalist defensive mentality (Paraguay). To be fair to the Paraguayans, injury’s largely left Gerardo Martino not choice — Roque Santa Cruz is the sole forward with any creative skill and he’s out with an ankle injury. That plus the amazing ability to concede late goals for ties in the group stage pushed Martino to return to the same route that got his side to the quarters in South Africa last year: protect the penalty area, trust in captain and keeper Justo Villar, move from there. If they win on penalties today, Paraguay would win its first Copa America since 1979 without actually winning a game.
Uruguay will probably have the support of the neutrals watching, with familiar names such as Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan, Edinson Cavani and Fernando Muslera as well as an ability to go from defensive stalwarts to attacking force. The beauty of Oscar Tabarez’s second reign in charge of his native country’s side is the tactical flexibility at his disposal and the depth — when Cavani, who tore up Serie A last year is coming off the bench for the final, you’ve a deep team that’s primed to take its 15th Copa America (currently, they’re tied with Argentina, who’s also won the tournament 14 times.)
Uruguay: Muslera; M. Pereira, Lugano (C), Coates, Caceres; Gonzalez, Perez, Rios, A. Pereira; Forlan, Suarez.
Paraguay: Villar (C); Veron, da Silva, Alcaraz, Piriz; Barrera, Ortigoza, Riveros, Estigambia; N.H. Valdez, Barrios.
Martino is gambling by putting both Ortigoza and Estigambia in — they’re more attack-minded, but without Santa Cruz he needs creativity somewhere. Uruguay are just creative enough to eke out the goal or two necessary to win this without penalties, so I’ll say 2-0 and hopefully no extra time involved.
WHO YA GOT?