It has been one wild 2011 Copa America. From the opening match of group play to the closing seconds of the finals, this tournament has packed surprises. The only thing it seems that we knew we could expect was whatever happened was going to be exciting. And now that it is over, let's take a look at what we have learned from the crazy action.
No. 3: Brazil is a Shell of Past Editions
Brazil isn't used to this kind of failure when it comes to world football. They really aren't used to failure at all. So what happened at the 2011 Copa America to the defending champions was just a little more than surprising and unexpected.
Brazil came limping out of the gates. They opened up with a draw. They followed that with another draw. And they had only scored two goals in the process! Panic was beginning to set in, but there was still plenty of time to get things going the way they wanted. It looked as if they were on their way when they finally notched a victory in their group game.
Brazil's offense finally got in track in that final group game. They scored four goals, and despite only recording one win, they won their group.
But as fate would have it, that victory only set the stage for their most epic failure of all.
Paraguay put the 2011 Copa America version of Brazil out of their misery on Sunday. Again, it was Brazil's anemic offense that was the culprit. The score at the end of regulation and the overtime session was 0-0. It was a shocking result for what should have been a powerful offense.
However, it was what happened after play resulted in zero goals for both teams that things got really bad for Brazil.
Brazil was beat in penalties 2-0. Yes, that is right. You just saw a zero for a team in penalties. And that is the first time that had ever happened at Copa America. For a team as talented and powerful as Brazil, this is mind bogglingly horrible.
It is hard to put this failure into perspective. It is hard to completely showcase how badly Brazil compounded their poor performance by choking on this final shootout
No. 2: Lionel Messi is Overrated
I know fans are going to dispute this point until they are bluer in the face than the Argentina jersey Messi wears while failing, but that doesn't mean it isn't true.
Lionel Messi had a fine 2011 Copa America. For any other player, this statement would be ridiculous, but Messi is not any other player. He entered this tournament widely regarded as the best player in the world.
Despite this lofty sentiment, he has been dogged by underwhelming play in International matches for Argentina. A lot of that has been attributed to the coaching and Argentina's system not utilizing his talents.
Argentina entered this tournament with a new coach who was determined to make the most out of his biggest weapon, Lionel Messi.
Messi certainly had his moments in this run, but he wound up with zero goals scored and his team ended with an early exit and only one victory. I understand Messi is not surrounded by the amazing talent he is while with Barcelona and that he was unquestionably Argentina's best player. But Argentina is far from talentless. If Messi was truly the best player on the planet—Argentina would not have been greeted with such an early exit.
No. 1 Uruguay is a World Football Powerhouse
Uruguay entered the 2011 Copa America as a distant third favorite to Brazil and host Argentina. It was a position they have grown used to. They have long been chasing the two world football powerhouses. It may be time for that perception to change.
Uruguay is coming off a successful 2010 World Cup run in which they advanced to the semifinals. And that semifinals appearance was deeper than either Argentina or Brazil.
Well Uruguay is now in the finals, and once again, they have outlasted Brazil and Argentina. Brazil and Argentina were both ousted in the quarterfinals and Uruguay personally dispatched of Argentina.
Uruguay dominated Copa America. They got better with every match and they displayed youth, depth and talent while doing so. It is no fluke that they have outlasted both Brazil and Argentina in the past two major tournaments. And that dominance over their rivals is not likely to end anytime soon.