Monday, July 25, 2011

Uruguay wins Copa America

Paul Kennedy of Soccer America recaps why Uruguay are the deserving champions of the 2011 Copa America.

While Brazil and Argentina couldn't get past the quarterfinals -- the same stage at which they fell at last year's World Cup -- Uruguay confirmed its status as the best team in South America with a thoroughly deserved 3-0 win over Paraguay in the 2011 Copa America final. Here are five reasons the Celeste, winner of a record 15 Copa America titles, is the best team in South America ...

DIEGO FORLAN. Named the best player at the 2010 World Cup when he helped Uruguay finish fourth, Forlan had not scored in 12 straight matches for the national team going into the final, but he scored twice in the final against Paraguay to tie Hector Scarone as Uruguay's all-time leading scorer (31 goals). He also joined father Pablo and grandfather Juan Carlos Corazo as Copa America champions. "Three generations have won this trophy," Diego said. "The name of Forlan will stay in history."

LUIS SUAREZ. The Liverpool striker played a key role in Uruguay's victory over host Argentina in the quarterfinals, scored both goals in the semifinal win over Peru and had the first goal against Paraguay in the final. In a tournament that saw its bright young strikers all exit quickly -- Argentina's Sergio Aguero, Brazil's Neymar, Chile's Alexis Sanchez and Colombia's Falcao -- Suarez stood out.

OSCAR WASHINGTON TABAREZ. At 64, Tabarez began his second stint as the Uruguay national team coach in 2006, and he doesn't look to be leaving any time soon. "We have to have faith in our things, we prepared for the [Copa America], we did it well," said Tabarez. World Cup 2014 qualifying starts this fall and Tabarez cautions, though, that it won't be easy. "To have won the Copa America has no bearing on the qualifiers," he said. "it's no guarantee."

DEFENSE. While the Celeste's attack struggled to find the mark until the final -- just six goals in its first five games -- its defense was outstanding throughout the tournament. Goalie Fernando Muslera had a great game in the quarterfinals against Argentina, and Diego Lugano was the tournament's best center back.

YOUTH MOVEMENT. Uruguay built on its success at the World Cup, bringing 20 of the 23 players it took to Germany to Argentina, but it continues to develop young talent. Center back Sebastian Coates, 20, was named the best young player at the 2011 Copa America. There should be more talent on the way. Uruguay finished second to host Mexico at the Under-17 World Cup. Next up: the Under-20 World Cup that begins this week in Colombia. Uruguay has also qualified for the 2012 London Olympics, eliminating 2008 gold-medalist Argentina in the U-20 qualifiers that doubled as the Olympic qualifiers in South America.

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