The centenary edition of the Copa América is in the books and, just as last year, Chile are champions of South America by virtue of a penalty shootout victory over Argentina in the final.
There was plenty of talent on display, with some big names flopping, like Uruguay and Brazil exiting at the group stage, and some surprise packages, such as the USA with their run to the semi-final.
Here is our pick of the best XI of the tournament.
GK David Ospina – Colombia
David Ospina had a solid tournament with Colombia, helping his side reach the semi-final before losing 2-0 to Chile. The Arsenal stopper gets the nod for his dependability; while FC Barcelona’s Chilean goalkeeper, Claudio Bravo, made some uncharacteristic and costly errors, and Mexico’s Guillermo Ochoa saw seven goals fly past him in the quarter-final, Ospina was solid throughout.
DF John Brooks – USA
The American defender overcame heavy criticism for his sub-par defending during last year’s Gold Cup tie against Jamaica, to have an impressive Copa América, as the USA defied the odds to reach the semi-final, before losing 4-0 to a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina.
DF Nicolas Otamendi – Argentina
It’s safe to say that Nicolas Otamendi had a less than impressive first season in the Premier League with Manchester City. But the bearded centre-back had a fine Copa América campaign as he formed a strong central-defensive partnership with Everton’s Ramiro Funes-Mori.
DF Gary Medel – Chile
The Chilean enforcer was the defensive general for La Roja. Despite his reputation for being somewhat of a hot-head, the 28-year-old former Cardiff City player stayed calm following Marcelo Diaz’s harsh first-half dismissal in the final against Argentina, and kept his defence in order.
MD Javier Mascherano – Argentina
Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano was faultless for Argentina, reverting back to the defensive midfield role in which he made his name before becoming a centre-back at Barça. The 32-year-old is the lynchpin of La Albiceleste’s midfield, and his influence and experience was again invaluable.
MD Ever Banega – Argentina
Ever Banega followed up a stellar season at club level, in which he guided Sevilla to Europa League success, by carrying his superb form into the Copa América with Argentina. The 27-year-old playmaker will join Internazionale next season on a free transfer, and the Nerazzurri stand to benefit from his creative midfield scheming.
MD Arturo Vidal – Chile
Bayern Munich midfielder Arturo Vidal was in fine fettle throughout the Copa América. When he’s at his best, there are few players in world football who can match his box-to-box driving energy. After being surrounded by controversy after crashing his car while allegedly under the influence of alcohol during last year’s Copa, the former Juventus player’s performances in the USA went a long way towards erasing those bad memories.
MD Clint Dempsey – USA
Clint Dempsey is the USA’s long-time talisman, and the former Fulham player was once again the key man for his country. Despite his advancing years, the 33-year-old Seattle Sounders midfielder was one of the standout players of the tournament on home soil.
RW Lionel Messi – Argentina
Lionel Messi’s tournament started a little later than most, with a minor injury meaning he was unable to start the opening two matches. That didn’t stop the 2015 Ballon d’Or winner from netting a hat-trick against Panama after coming on as a second-half substitute. Messi bagged one of the goals of the tournament with a free-kick in the semi-final against the USA. Despite his penalty miss in the final and subsequent international retirement, the five-time World Player of the Year was the shining light of this year’s Copa América.
LW Alexis Sanchez – Chile
Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez was a constant threat for Chile throughout the tournament, peaking in the 7-0 defeat of Mexico and the 2-0 semi-final victory over Colombia. The former Barcelona winger also set himself apart with his tireless work-rate, leading Chile’s high-press and covering every blade of grass in the oppositions’ half of the pitch.
ST Eduardo Vargas – Chile
Hoffenheim forward Eduardo Vargas was immensely impressive in leading the line for Chile. Four goals in the 7-0 dismantling of Mexico in the quarter-final stand out as a highlight, but Vargas also netted twice against Panama and his relentless work-rate was a key factor in Chile’s potent attack.
About the author – Ryan Baldi
Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here.