Goal of the tournament: Eduardo Vargas, Chile vs. Peru
This has not been a tournament short on fine goals. Sergio Aguero’s diving header against Uruguay following a Javier Pastore spin and perfect Pablo Zabaleta cross; Pastore’s goal from Lionel Messi’s through ball against Paraguay in the semi-final; the neat clip from Martin Smedberg for Bolivia against Ecuador; Eduardo Vargas’ header from Arturo Vidal’s cross against Mexico. However, the best goal, perhaps, for context as much as aesthetic merit, was Vargas’ 25-yard strike for Chile in its semifinal win over Peru. It was a fine strike, dipping so violently on its way into the top corner that it seemed it must have taken a deflection off Juan Manuel Vargas. Although replays subsequently proved it had not. More than the terrifying beauty of the goal, it was a goal just when Chile needed it.
LatinContent/Getty ImagesDaniel Jayo/STR
Save of the tournament: David Ospina vs. Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi
When Pablo Zabaleta drove over a cross form the right, it seemed Sergio Aguero was sure to score. He got across his defender at the near post and turned the ball goal wards, only for David Ospina to save with an outstretched left foot. The ball then looped up and it seemed that Lionel Messi would easily head the ball into the empty net. He did everything right, but somehow Ospina sprang up and got hands to the ball to deflect it away. “I wanted to die,” said Messi afterwards, unable to believe the ball had not gone in.
LatinContent/Getty ImagesAlex Reyes/STR
Shock of the tournament: Bolivia defeat Ecuador
Bolivia had not won a competitive game away from home since 1995 when it faced an Ecuador side that had performed creditably against Chile in the opening game. Bolivia had looked solid in drawing with Mexico, and it was reasonable to expect another tight game. Instead, Bolivia raced into a 3-0 lead by halftime. Everything went wrong after that as it conceded 10 goals in its next two and a half games, but at least it has won a game without the benefit of altitude. That, perhaps, is something to build on in World Cup qualifying.
LatinContent/Getty ImagesClaudio Santana/STR
Disappointment of the tournament: Brazil
Nobody expected that Brazil would be able to produce brilliant attacking football at this tournament, certainly not with Dunga as manager, but nobody expected it to be quite as bad as this as well. Unconvincing in wins over Peru and Venezuela, it was justifiably beaten by Colombia, and having taken the lead against Paraguay, then retreated into a state of weird anxiety before losing on penalties. The Under-20 side has just lost in the final of the World Cup, so players are still being produced (as perhaps, is only to be expected in a nation of such size and devotion to football) but there are major failures of leadership and coaching. Having seen how Argentina played in that semifinal, going out to Paraguay might have been a fortunate escape.
LatinContent/Getty ImagesGabriel Rossi/STF
Animals of the tournament: Dogs
Dogs are everywhere in Chile, sleeping on street corners, lolloping around, generally looking like they’re having the most fun in the world. They seem too well-fed and too well-groomed to be strays -- and may wear jackets and/or collars -- so it may be that these are not strays but pets that are allowed to roam free here. But what’s been clear (surely beyond accusations of anthropomorphism) is the excitement the tournament has brought them. In Vina del Mar, a group of four stood watching intently as Argentina fans were searched before the game against Jamaica. A dog sat on the steps in front of the stadium before Argentina v Colombia. And somehow, a dog managed to evade security and climb the rickety scaffolding staircase before Chile v Peru. They’ve also been a constant backdrop to the tournament.
AFP/Getty ImagesRODRIGO BUENDIA
Controversy of the tournament: Gonzalo Jara and Edinson Cavani
It was the moment at which Chile could no longer pretend to be idealists: A defender poking another player, inducing from him a half-hearted slap that earned the Uruguayan player a second yellow card. What had at first seemed like a moment of stupidity from Edinson Cavani, turned out to have been a mater of disgrace for Gonzalo Jara -- all the more so if the allegation that he made reference to the arrest of Cavani’s father of drunk driving charges were true. Jara was suspended and it ended his tournament.
LatinContent/Getty ImagesGabriel Rossi/STF
Moment of the tournament: Bruno Valdez clattering Pablo Aguilar
There are times when Lionel Messi does things that seem too good to be true. With Argentina 3-1 up on Paraguay, he accelerated to reach a loose ball before Victor Caceres. It was remarkable that he could get to the ball first, but to do so and then skip over him was scarcely credible. Then he set off on a typical run, holding off Pablo Aguilar and nutmegging Bruno Valdez, who lunged hopelessly, missing Messi and crashing into his teammate, to leave them neatly stacked, one on top of the other. Suddenly Argentina had a four on two break; Angel Di Maria was the eventual beneficiary.