Saturday, February 5, 2011

Brazil, Peru, and Colombia won the three round-robin qualification groups, joining the privileged Uruguayans at the semi-finals. At the end Peru and Colombia emerged victorious and proceeded to play two-legged final. In the South American tradition, two matches were not enough… Colombia won 1-0 in Bogota; Peru prevailed 2-0 in Lima; and third match had to played in neutral Caracas, which Peru won 1-0, becoming South American champion for a second time – their first title was long time ago, in 1939. Sweet, but… was it Peru too strong or was it a lucky victory, due more to Brazilian and Argentine experiments with new players?
Happy champions – Peru.
In retrospect, Peru differed significantly from the other teams: it was still the great generation of 1970 World Cup, led by Chumpitaz. It also was the only team using foreign based players – Cubillas (FC Porto), Sotil (Barcelona), and Julio Menendez (Boca Juniors). That is, the best players Peru had were included, unlike the other countries, where critics pointed out that stars – almost all playing in Europe - were ignored in the name of questionable experiments. Were the critics right? Hard to tell – Argentina and Brazil had used inferior squads in South American championship in the past. Money were always short too, and to fly players from Europe was prohibitively expensive, especially when the current form of the stars was unknown. European clubs were more than reluctant to release players for national duty – most often they flatly refused. Another factor was political – Carlos Caszely moved to Spain partly because of opposition to General Pinochet’s regime. Did he refuse to play for Chile in 1975 or was he deliberately excluded is a mystery – Chile invited foreign based player: Carlos Reinoso played in Mexico for America. As a whole 1975 Copa America remains suspect: the three leading countries failed to reach the final; the winner was a second tier at best; and the other finalist – Colombia – was not even second rank. On the other hand, the continent managed to restore its biggest tournament after so many years of absence.