The Copa América (Spanish and Portuguese for “America Cup”), formerly known as the South American Football Championship (Campeonato Sud Americano de Football in Spanish), is an international football competition contested between the men’s national football teams of CONMEBOL, determining the continental champion of South America. It is the oldest international continental football competition.
The current tournament format, established in 1993, involves twelve teams competing at venues in a host nation over a period of one month. As the confederation has only ten members, national teams from other FIFA confederations are invited to fill two other spaces, creating a 12-member group stage with three groups of four teams. From 1993 through 2015, five teams from CONCACAF and one team from AFC have participated. The nine appearances by Mexico (CONCACAF) are the most appearances for a non-CONMEBOL teams, while their two runner-up finishes are the highest for an invitee.
In 44 tournaments since 1916, eight of the ten CONMEBOL national teams have won the title, with only Ecuador and Venezuela yet to win. Uruguay has the most championships, with 15, while the current (2015) champion is Chile.
The Copa América is one of the most prestigious and most widely viewed sporting events in the world. The highest finishing member of CONMEBOL has the right to participate in the next edition of the FIFA Confederations Cup, but is not obligated to do so.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Beginnings
- 1.2 Disorganization and intermittency
- 1.3 Renewal
- 2 Hosts
- 3 Format and rules
- 4 Invitees
- 4.1 Invitees nations record
- 5 Trophies
- 6 Results
- 7 Performance by country
- 8 Records and statistics
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The first recorded football match in South America was played in Argentina in 1867 by British railway workers. The first football team in South America, Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata was created in Argentina in 1887, and the Argentine Football Association was founded in 1893. By the early 20th century, football was growing in popularity, and the first international competition held between national teams of the continent occurred in 1910 when Argentina organized an event to commemorate the centenary of the May Revolution. Chile and Uruguay participated, but this event is not considered official by CONMEBOL. Similarly, for the centennial celebration of its independence, Argentina held a tournament between July 2 and July 17 of 1916 with Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil being the first participants of the tournament. This so-called Campeonato Sudamericano de Football would be the first edition of what is currently known as Copa América; Uruguay would triumph in this first edition after tying 0–0 with hosts Argentina in the deciding, last match held in Estadio Racing Club in Avellaneda.
Seeing the success of the tournament, a boardmember of the Uruguayan Football Association, Héctor Rivadavia, proposed the establishment of a confederation of the associations of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, and on July 9, independence day in Argentina, CONMEBOL was founded. The following year, the competition was played again, this time in Uruguay. Uruguay would win the title again to win their bicampeonato after defeating Argentina 1–0 in the last match of the tournament. The success of the tournament on Charrúan soil would help consolidate the tournament. After a flu outbreak in Rio de Janeiro canceled the tournament in 1918, Brazil hosted the tournament in 1919 and was crowned champion for the first time after defeating the defending champions 1–0 in a playoff match to decide the title, while the Chilean city of Viña del Mar would host the 1920 event which was won by Uruguay.
For the 1921 event, Paraguay participated for the first time after its football association affiliated to CONMEBOL earlier that same year. Argentina won the competition for the first time thanks to the goals of Julio Libonatti. In subsequent years, Uruguay would dominate the tournament, which at that time was the largest football tournament in the world. Argentina, however, would not be far behind and disputed the supremacy with the Charruas. After losing the 1928 final at the 1928 Summer Olympics held in Amsterdam, Argentina would gain revenge in the 1929 South American Championship by defeating the Uruguayans in the last, decisive match. During this period, both Bolivia and Peru debuted in the tournament in 1926 and 1927, respectively.
Disorganization and intermittency
After the first World Cup held in Uruguay in 1930, the enmity between the football federations of Uruguay and Argentina prevented the competition from being played for a number of years. Only in 1935 was it possible to dispute a special edition of the event to be officially reinstated in 1939. Peru became the host nation of the 1939 edition and won the competition for the first time. Ecuador made their debut at that tournament.
In 1941, Chile hosted that year’s edition in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Santiago for which the capacity of the newly built Estadio Nacional was expanded from 30,000 to 70,000 spectators. Despite the large investment and initial success of the team, the Chileans would be defeated in the last match by eventual champions Argentina. Uruguay hosted and won the 1942 edition. Chile would host again in 1945 only to come agonizingly close to disputing the title with Argentina only for Brazil to spoil the possibility; Argentina would win the tournament once again on Chilean soil.
The event entered a period of great disruption. The championship was not played on a regular basis and many editions would be deemed unofficial, only to be considered valid later on by CONMEBOL. For example, Argentina would be the first (and so far only) team to win three consecutive titles by winning the championships of 1945, 1946 and 1947. After those three annual tournaments, the competition returned to being held every two years, then three and later four. There were even two tournaments held in 1959, one in Argentina and a second in Ecuador. During this period, some of the national teams were indifferent to the tournament. Some did not participate every year, others sent lesser teams; in the 1959 edition held in Ecuador, Brazil entered a team from the state of Pernambuco. Bolivia won for the first time when it hosted in 1963, but was defeated in the first game of the 1967 tournament by debutant Venezuela. The founding of the Copa Libertadores in 1959 also affected the way the tournament was viewed by its participants.
After eight years of absence, the event resumed in 1975 and officially acquired the name Copa América. The tournament had no fixed venue, and all matches were played throughout the year in each country. Nine teams participated in the group stages with the defending champions receiving a bye into the semifinals. The tournament was contested every four years using this system until 1987.
In 1986, CONMEBOL decided to return to having one country host the tournament and to contest it every other year. From 1987 until 2001, the event was hosted every two years in rotation by the ten members of the confederation. The format would remain constant with a first round of groups, but the final round stage ranged from being a new, final round-robin group or a single-elimination system to decide the winner. This renewal helped the tournament, which began television coverage in Europe and North America. The 1987 Copa América was held in Argentina; this was the first time the nation had hosted an edition in 28 years. Despite entering as heavy favorites for being the reigning world champions (having won the 1986 FIFA World Cup), playing at home and having a team largely composed of its World Cup winners led by the legendary Diego Maradona, Argentina would finish in a disappointing fourth place after being beaten by defending champions Uruguay 0–1 in the semifinals. Uruguay would defeat a surprisingly strong Chilean squad who made it to the final, disposing of the powerful Brazil 4–0 on the group stage.
Brazil lifted its first official international title since the 1970 FIFA World Cup after winning the 1989 Copa América held on home soil. Argentina, in turn, won the Copa América after 32 long years in 1991 in Chile, thanks to a refreshed squad led by the prolific goalscorer Gabriel Batistuta. The 1993 Copa América tournament in Ecuador would take its current form. Along with the usual ten teams, CONMEBOL invited two countries from CONCACAF to participate, Mexico and the United States.
Uruguay managed to win, as host, the competition in 1995 ending a period of decline for Uruguayan football. With the implementation of rotating hosts, Colombia, Paraguay and Venezuela hosted the tournament for the first time. Brazil entered a successful series of victories, winning four of the five continental titles between 1997 and 2007. The first, in 1997, was won after defeating host nation Bolivia 1–3 with goals from Leonardo, Denílson and Ronaldo becoming crucial in the Verde-Amarela’s consagration on Bolivia’s altitude. Brazil would successfully defend the title in 1999 after thumping Uruguay 3–0 in Asuncion, Paraguay. However, the 2001 Copa América saw one of the biggest surprises of the history of the sport as Honduras eliminated Brazil in the quarterfinals. Colombia, the host nation, would go on to win the competition for the first time ever.
Ruing from the embarrassing performance in 2001, Brazil reestablished itself in the South American pantheon after defeating Argentina, on penalties, in order to win the 2004 competition held in Peru. Three years later, the two teams met again in the final, this time in Venezuela. Once again, Brazil came out victorious after crushing Argentina 3–0.
Argentina hosted the 2011 competition and was ousted by Uruguay in the quarterfinals by penalty shootout. Uruguay would go on defeating Peru 2–0 in the semis to reach the finals and overpower Paraguay 3–0, thus winning the trophy on Argentinean soil for the third time and second in a row. This, the 43rd edition, was the first time that neither Argentina nor Brazil reached the semifinals stage in the tournament.