By Calvin Palmer
The final of the Copa América was always a foregone conclusion. The class and quality of Uruguay were always going to win out against the hard-running of Paraguay.
Goals from Luis Suárez and Diego Forlán, his second goal of the match coming in the final minute just to emphasize Uruguay’s supremacy, put the game beyond Paraguay’s reach.
Paraguay were under the cosh right from the start. Suárez created panic in the Paraguay penalty area after just two minutes and from the resulting corner, Uruguay skipper Diego Lugano powered a header that looked goal bound but Paraguay’s goalkeeper Justo Villar was equal to it with a magnificient save. Paraguay eventually cleared their lines.
It was only a temporary reprieve. Ten minutes later Suárez found himself in space in the Paraguay penalty area and his shot was deflected by Veron into the corner of the net. I think if Suárez had shot cleanly, Villar would probably have been equal to it. But football is not about ifs and buts.
Uruguay continued to press and Suárez set up strike partner Forlán whose shot was blocked by Villar.
It seemed only a question of time before Uruguay scored again. When midfield destroyer Egidio Arevalo dispossessed his Paraguay counterpart Ortigoza ten-yards outside the penalty area, the ball was quickly worked out to Forlán on the left who buried his shot into the far corner.
It was effectively game over even though the match was only in the 42nd minute. Paraguay had failed to score in their previous 240 minutes of football and they were never going put three goals past Uruguay to win the tournament.
In the second half, all credit to Paraguay for not letting their heads drop. They kept plugging away at their thankless task.
After 15 minutes of some torrid football, with players being caught in possession just outside their own 18-yard area and too many passes being mishit or easily intercepted by Uruguayan defenders, they suddenly found their stride and applied some real pressure.
Haedo Valdez, whose work-rate probably had Stoke City’s manager Tony Pulis trying to contact the player’s agent, fired in a volley that cannoned off the crossbar via Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera’s finger tips. A few minutes later, Valdez was put through on goal but could only fire tamely at the Muslera.
At the other end of the pitch, Villar pulled off another fantastic save when good work by Suárez saw a shot by Eguren deflected off two Paraguay defenders. Villar had already started to move to his right but then flung himself in the opposite direction to keep the ball out.
With the game moving into the final minute, the Suárez-Forlán partnership struck again. Suárez deftly headed the ball into the path of Forlán who raced for goal and calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.
Forlán is now Uruguay’s top goal scorer with 31 goals but I have a feeling Suárez will eventually pass that total during his international career.
So Uruguay are crowned champions of the Copa América for the 15th time. They now overtake Argentina who have won the competition 14 times. I am tempted to say it was a Forlán conclusion.
I watched the match on Univision, the Spanish language network in the United States. At half-time, the channel featured two T Mobile ads with the delectable charms of Valeska Castillo. It is almost worth tuning into the channel on a regular basis just to see her.
Half-time also put a face to the ebullient voice of Univision’s match commentator Fernando Fiore. He looks exactly how his voice sounds, avuncular and with a sense of fun gleaming in his eyes.
A few half-time shots of the crowd also revealed that the Edinson Cavani Stadium in Buenos Aires still allows people to smoke. I suppose it will only be a matter of time before the “sophisticated” ways of Europe and North America finally sweep Latin America. The people standing next to the smokers were not waving their hands around as if trying to fend off a wasp. It makes you wonder just who is the sophisticated society and who is the common sense society.
The sight of spectators smoking took me back to the days when I stood in the Boothen paddock at the Victoria Ground. During the course of a Stoke City home game I would smoke five or six Players No 6 cigarettes. And during the several hundred times I did that between 1968 and 1985, not one person keeled over from a heart attack induced by inhaling second-hand smoke. It almost beggars belief, doesn’t it?