The South America continental championships, 1989 edition, were played out in Brazil between July 1 and 16. In addition to obviously representing a major trophy in itself, the competition was also acting as a prelude to the CONMEBOL section of the World Cup qualification, which would commence a mere fortnight after the final pair of Copa América matches on Sunday July 16.
With all ten of the continent’s FIFA participants taking part, the teams were split into two groups of five, where teams would meet each other according to round-robin principles. That meant ten matches per group, and a total of three venues were going to stage the first phase of the tournament. The first eight matches in Group A were played in Salvador, Bahia, with the final two taking place in the northern city of Recife, Pernambuco. As for Group B, all ten fixtures were materializing in Goiânia, in the state of Goiás, deep inside the vast country.
Two teams would progress through from both groups, and these four nations would ultimately come together in Rio de Janeiro, where the famous Estádio do Maracanã provided the stage for the final six fixtures. There was therefore no outright ‘final’ as such, with even the second phase of the Copa América happening in a league format. Any team progressing beyond the first group stage were playing a total of seven matches.
(Click on the respective teams for their nations page with line-ups)
July 1: 2.00pm
Pa: Cañete 2, Neffa, Mendoza, del Solar (o.g.) – Pe: Hirano, Reynoso
July 1: 4.00pm
B: Bebeto, Geovani (pen.), Baltazar – V: Maldonado
July 3: 7.30pm
C: Higuita (pen.), Iguarán 2, de Ávila – V: Maldonado 2
July 3: 9.30pm
July 5: 7.30pm
P: Navarro – V: Maldonado
July 5: 9.30pm
July 7: 7.30pm
P: Neffa, Ferreira 2
July 7: 9.30pm
July 9: 3.00pm
C: Iguarán – P: Hirano
July 9: 5.00pm
B: Bebeto 2
1. Paraguay 4 3 0 1 9-4 6
2. Brazil 4 2 2 0 5-1 6
3. Colombia 4 1 2 1 5-4 4
4. Peru 4 0 3 1 4-7 3
5. Venezuela 4 0 1 3 4-11 1
July 2: 3.00pm
July 2: 5.00pm
July 4: 7.30pm
U: Ostolaza 2, Sosa
July 4: 9.30pm
July 6: 7.30pm
July 6: 9.30pm
U: Sosa, Alzamendi, Francescoli
July 8: 2.00pm
C: Olmos, Ramírez, Astengo, Pizarro (pen.), Reyes
July 8: 4.00pm
July 10: 7.30pm
C: Olmos, Letelier – E: Avilés
July 10: 9.30pm
1. Argentina 4 2 2 0 2-0 6
2. Uruguay 4 2 0 2 6-2 4
3. Chile 4 2 0 2 7-5 4
4. Ecuador 4 1 2 1 2-2 4
5. Bolivia 4 0 2 2 0-8 2
Prior to the start of the tournament, Brazil were obviously among the major favourites to finish atop this group. Not only were they performing a Copa at home for the first time in 40 years, but neither of the other two major South American forces, Argentina and Uruguay, were located in their pool. This was Sebastião Lazaroni’s first noteworthy competition since his appointment as Seleção boss back in January, and not just was he expected to guide the team through this initial group stage, but anything other than the title would have been deemed a failure. They had ten from their squad of 20 based in Europe, and despite the absence of the lethal Careca due to injury, they looked quality in just about every single position.
Under the guidance of the shrewd Francisco Maturana, Colombia were gradually emerging as a team to look out for. He was double-acting as manager for the recently crowned continental club champions Atlético Nacional of Medellín as well as the national team, and no less than eight from his Copa América squad hailed from the team which had defeated Paraguay’s Olimpia Asunción in the two-legged Copa Libertadores final back in late May. The wonderfully gifted Carlos Valderrama, voted most valuable player in the 1987 edition of the tournament, now had a season behind him in Europe, and they’d have hoped that he could lead Colombia through to the final group stage.
Paraguay arrived in Brazil with an experienced squad, and one where several members had participated during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Still, they were without a number of key players, with former South American ‘Player of the Year’, Julio César Romero, the most notable omission. The 28 year old had rounded the season off with European giants Barcelona, and would be a big miss. The same applied to striker Roberto Cabañas, plying his trade with Stade Brest in the French topflight. Up and coming goalkeeper José Luis Chilavert, at Real Zaragoza in Spain, had also not travelled, and experienced midfielder Jorge Nunes and forward Ramón Hicks were also not present in Brazil. That fivesome apart, though, they could still call on players of undoubted quality such as hard man centre-back Rogelio Delgado, fine libero César Zabala, strong midfielder Jorge Guasch and flamboyant wide forward Alfredo Mendoza. Under the tutelage of Argentine coach Eduardo Manera, they were probably more thought of as a strong collective unit rather than a team of individual brilliance.
While there was little doubting the pedigree of Peru, it was also evident that this was far from their finest hour. The country and its football, which had some definite peaks in its trail, the most recent being the 1975 Copa América title in a decade where the great Teófilo Cubillas had risen to prominence, were still mourning the tragic event which occured in December ’87, when Alianza Lima, the country’s leading club, had almost their entire team wiped out in that awful aircrash in the Pacific Ocean. Peru had competed at three out of four World Cups between ’70 and ’82. They were not expected to be much more than also-rans on this occasion, although in stout defender Jorge Olaechea and midfield playmaker Julio César Uribe, they still had a pair of experienced men to try and lead the youngsters in the right direction. The team was led from the touchline by former Brazilian international José Macia, nicknamed Pepe.
The continent’s doormat remained Venezuela. With football not always the country’s primary team sport, they had failed to even participate in the Copa América until 1967, when they had even actually managed to win a match. This, however, was a feat which they would not repeat until 2007. Their record read 1-3-15 in terms of tournament matches coming into this 1989 edition, and they would do very well to accumulate even a single point. Argentinian coach Carlos Moreno, who had done well with one of the country’s leading club sides Deportivo Táchira for a few seasons up until ’89, could actually call upon a few players with experience from an international championship: Libero and team captain Pedro Acosta had been part of the 1980 Venezuela squad which had competed in the Moscow Olympic Games, something which also went for midfielder Bernardo Añor and striker Juan Pedro Febles, a big hero on the domestic football scene. Another who would later feature during the World Cup qualification, Nelson Carrero, had not been selected for the squad which had travelled to Brazil (and which only arrived on the eve of their opening fixture against the host nation).
Reigning world champions Argentina had not arrived in Brazil only to make up the numbers. Granted, they had disappointed somewhat by finishing fourth in the 1987 edition on home soil, and while they still carried the world’s undoubtedly most talented player in their ranks, they were hardly reeking of goals. Still under the guidance of Carlos Bilardo, you knew you would get a tightly organized unit, and their squad contained plenty of men who had been able to title themselves ‘world champion’ following the global competititon in Mexico ’86. Surely, they would look to battle it out for one of the group’s two top berths.
Champions of the South American continent were Uruguay, who had won two years earlier in a desperately hard-fought final with three sendings-off. They were managed by Óscar Tabárez, who had won Montevideo’s Peñarol the Copa Libertadores title back in ’87. Their fine World Cup pedigree had its reputation somewhat tarnished in the wake of their controversially disappointing 1986 exit, and just a few players from that squad still lingered. By far the greatest star was Enzo Francescoli, who had rounded off three seasons in the French topflight with Racing Paris, and who was on the cusp of joining the country’s leading club Marseille. Both he and midfielder José Perdomo were suspended for their pair of opening matches, thanks to their red cards in the previous edition’s final. They were a well-rehearsed unit in their 4-3-3, and were expected to be there or thereabouts.
Having lost by the narrowest of margins in the 1987 Copa América final against the Uruguayans, Chile (never continental champions!) were still led by Orlando Aravena. Formerly the manager at various domestic topflight clubs, Aravena was in his third year in charge. He could still call upon the majority of his key players from two years earlier, among which libero Fernando Astengo surely was a major contributor. The same sure applied for highly experienced goalkeeper Roberto Rojas, who was the team captain. Like two years previously, there was no Patricio Yáñez, and the Europe based winger was accompanied in his absence by players like forwards Ivo Basay, Hugo Rubio and the exciting Iván Zamorano, who had burst onto the scene as a 20 year old back in ’87. Did they still have what it took to upset the big guns? They would be without the suspended Astengo for their first two matches, against the Argentinians and the Uruguayans, and this could prove to be a big dent in their aspirations.
Yugoslav citizen Dušan Drašković would be hoping to provide the Ecuadorian fans with some long-awaited success. Considering how the country had always been among the continent’s lesser forces, their opponents were surely too clever for them once more, but it was not like they had a lot of tournament history to defend anyway. Were they not heading in the right direction, though, after almost a life-time of football struggles? At least there was a level of continuity on the players’ front, with eight players in the squad who had featured in the ’87 edition in Argentina. Álex Aguinaga, a young forward, had been 18 last time around, and was seen as one of the continent’s more exciting prospects. He had a few decent players behind him in full-back Luis Capurro and midfielder Kléber Fajardo, but altogether they did not look strong enough to be challengers.
Another perennial Copa América struggler were Bolivia, although it must be said that they had won the 1963 edition on home soil. Of late, though, they had been unable to make an impact. One of four participating countries to boast an Argentinian head coach, in Jorge Habegger, they were not left much chance in this company. Around half of the squad from the last Copa remained intact, and they did have some fine individuals, most notably in midfielder Milton Melgar, but there were also some exciting youngsters coming through, and Habegger had included a couple of them in this squad: Attacking players Erwin Sánchez and Marco Etcheverry, 19 and 18 respectively. A few notable squad omissions were experienced midfield playmaker Erwin Romero, defensive midfield man Vladimir Soria, as well as lively forward William Ramallo.
First phase dynamics
Few had probably expected such a high-scoring encounter in the very first match: Paraguay dished out a proper lesson to Peru, and already on the opening day of the championship it was plain to see what a poor state the pitch in the Fonte Nova stadium in Salvador was. It was not just through the centre where it was uneven, causing the ball to bounce oddly and become hard to control for the players, as even along the flanks this proved noticeable. For a tournament of this magnitude, it really didn’t seem just at all that the players had to endure such conditions. Not that the Paraguayans would’ve minded a whole lot, having got the better of the Peruvians by five goals to two, even seeing four different players get their name on the scoresheet, in addition to the own goal from José del Solar. While the margin of victory, and not least the fact that they scored five times, impressed, Paraguay’s plight was also aided by some shoddy Peruvian defending. The pace of the game wasn’t always top notch.
The eight first matches in Group A would be staged here. With the opening fixture a 2pm event, acting as a warm-up to the date’s main happening, the attendance figure around the time of kick-off went on record as around 5000. By the time the Brazil v Venezuela game got under way at 4pm, another 30k had turned up. Not that they were all too excited with their team’s performance. A fraction of the support turned against the Brazilian FA, the CBF, and vented their huge displeasure at the fact that the city’s young forward ace Charles, a player with Salvador club Bahia, had been omitted from the Copa América squad in the days leading up to the tournament. This even prompted scenes of burning Brazilian flags, which, in all honesty, was quite scandalous. The team’s performance out on the bumpy pitch wasn’t all that much to shout about either, although they should’ve made even lighter work of dispatching a plucky Venezuelan team. Second half substitute Baltazar, leading scorer in the Spanish topflight by the end of the 1988/89 season, was the chief culprit in wasting two opportunities which had seemed about as easy to convert as the one which he got registered. This hardly silenced the cries for Charles.
Both groups would have two sets of fixtures every other day, so by the time Group A reached its ‘matchday 2’, Group B had got under way in central Brazil. With five teams in each of the two groups, there was one team which had a day off every round, and on the opening date it had been Colombia. They kick-started their Copa América campaign with a 4-2 win against Venezuela, who were already confirming their status as the group’s likely bottom team. Colourful goalkeeper René Higuita had opened the scoring from the penalty spot. Only 4000 people had been registered for the Monday 7.30pm start. Brazil’s game against the Peru side which had been thrashed by Paraguay on the opening day had been scheduled for a 9.30pm start, and a meagre 8200 crowd endured the dull 0-0 draw.
Weekday fixtures always had 7.30 and 9.30 starts. The weekend matches got under way from 2.00 to 5.00. For the third batch of Group A fixtures, Brazil were given a timely evening off, as they saw some pitiful attendance figures cover the draw between Peru and Venezuela, as well as Paraguay’s important 1-0 victory over Colombia. With Brazil expected through from this group one way or another, the battle for the only other vacant spot meant progress was intensifying. These two again found it difficult to maintain much rhythm out on the sad excuse for a ‘grass’ pitch, but Paraguay were good value for their 1-0 win. In Venezuela’s 1-1 against Peru, incidentally, their stocky forward Carlos Maldonado had notched what had already been his fourth goal of the tournament. The Deportivo Táchira man was turning into a scoring sensation.
By July 7, Salvador was staging the city’s final pair of Copa América fixtures, and thankfully so if you were to take into the equation how Fonte Nova had proved an impossibility for stylish football. Even the hosts had opted for a more physical approach, as neat interpassing along the ground was not an option. 3000 had turned up to see Paraguay earn their third win from three, and thus secure their passage into the final phase of the competition. Their 3-0 mauling of Venezuela had happened in far less convincing fashion than it sounded. In fact, Eduardo Manera’s team had been fortunate not to be behind by the time they opened the scoring, and in addition to having two goals ruled out for offside, that man Maldonado had even spurned a couple of fine opportunities. The attendance figure had risen to just in excess of 9000 for the 9.30 kick-off, where Colombia had needed to win to remain hopeful of pipping the hosts for the group’s second spot. A game which endured some torrential rain finished goalless. It had only picked up in the final 20 minutes.
The final pair of fixtures in Group A were played on the Sunday afternoon, with Colombia and Peru kicking off two hours prior to Brazil’s clash with Paraguay. It is fair to suggest that all teams involved were happy to have left Fonte Nova and Salvador behind, as they had travelled further north to Recife and its Estádio do Arruda. At least the pitch excuse could no longer be made use of. The Brazil fans in the crowd saw Colombia deservedly go in front through seasoned striker Iguarán during a somewhat tepid first half, but just prior to the half-time whistle, Peru got the Brazilians cheerful as Hirano converted with a fine chip over Higuita. Despite sustained second half pressure from the Colombians, they could never carve out a winner. Brazil were now through with just a point in the subsequent game. And against a much-changed Paraguay, they finally got themselves back on the scoresheet again having failed to do so since their opening day win against Venezuela. They took until early in the second half for the first of Bebeto’s brace to win them the game 2-0, and though it was never a classic, it was a well-deserved win for the hosts in another game where Romário failed to deliever. His failed attempt to chip Paraguay’s young goalkeeper when one on one in the second half summed up his tournament so far. Both through to the next phase, with Paraguay, one of the teams with the largest portion of absent first team candidates, just winning the group on goal difference.
On the opening Sunday in Central Brazil, Ecuador made sure to pull of a major shock: They defeated the fancied Uruguayan select by the only goal of the game, scored right at the death by substitute striker Christian Benítez. While the Celeste had been without their talismanic forward Enzo Francescoli (and midfield regular José Perdomo) due to suspension, this was still no excuse for what looked like a possibly damaging defeat. To the Ecuador team and their Yugoslav manager Dušan Drašković, it was a piece of footballing history in which they would revel. The 5.00 kick-off later the same day saw Argentina defeat Chile by a solitary goal in what was hardly a stellar performance. Maradona had not quite managed to reach his peak standards, while the Chileans were without their suspended defensive star Fernando Astengo.
Around 40,000 had been in attendance for that second Sunday tie, but with a Tuesday night round, the 7.30 and 9.30 starts only attracted 8000 and 12,000 respectively for Uruguay 3-0 Bolivia and Argentina 0-0 Ecuador. It had been key to Uruguay to get back to winning ways after their opening day shock loss, and they had made relatively light work of a Bolivian team making their first appearance. Tall midfielder Santiago Ostolaza, filling in at the base of their three man midfield in Perdomo’s continued suspension absence, scored twice. Ecuador, with a point against the world champions, now had secured three points from a possible four in matches against the big two. Surely, they would now go on and progress through to the final phase? These were itchy times for both Uruguay and Argentina.
Thursday night football in Goiânia was incapable of attracting the masses. A mere 3000 had turned out for the pair of fixtures between Ecuador/Bolivia and Uruguay/Chile. The 7.30pm tie had ended goalless, something which had definitely been good news for the big two, with Uruguay making sure to put a big dent in Chilean hopes through a second successive comprehensive victory. They celebrated the return to action for Perdomo/Francescoli by winning 3-0. The Europe based captain, who had seen big defender Hugo de León temporarily carry the armband in his absence, even got in on the scoring as he had completed the rout during the second half. The Chileans lost striker Juan Carlos Letelier to a red card during the first half.
It was Saturday by the time the group returned to action, and Chile’s encounter with Bolivia took centre stage at 2pm. Having lost against both Argentina and Uruguay, and thus been looking dead and buried in terms of progress beyond the first group stage, they got back on track as they recorded the biggest win of the tournament: 5-0 the final scoreline. In what had not, despite the scoreline, been a feast of attacking football, the soft Bolivians had succumbed to goals against almost every time that the Chilean team, buoyed by the fact that Astengo was back in action, had come forward. Astengo had even been given the captain’s armband for the second half, when squad captain Roberto Rojas had sat down for stand-in ‘keeper Marco Cornez, and the inspirational, Brazil based libero had crushed Bolivia goalkeeper Marco Barrero in the air as he’d rammed home 3-0 early in the second half. For the game between the big two, 18,000 had arrived at the Serra Douada, and as Uruguay had recorded back to back 3-0 wins, a cautious Argentinian team must have been somewhat wary beforehand. They even lost experienced defender Oscar Ruggeri to a red card on 18 minutes, but playing ten against eleven for the remainder of the game, they dished out an expert tactical performance to stifle the threat from the opposition, and then getting their winner midway through the second half through substitute Claudio Caniggia, assisted by a tightly-marked, yet more keen Maradona.
So it was Monday night football in Goiânia to decide who would go through along with Argentina. Before the final round, the Argentinans had looked more or less certain winners, as they were top with five points and came up against Bolivia, goalless so far, in the night game. Prior to that, though, Ecuador, or even Chile, were they to rack up a convincing win, could put Uruguay, agonisingly watching from the sidelines, out of the tournament. A draw for Ecuador would take them to five points, one more than the Uruguayans had accumulated from their four fixtures. Likewise, a win by three clear goals for Chile would see them oust Uruguay on goals scored. Ultimately, Chile would score late in both halves through Olmos and Letelier respectively, and by the time of the latter, Ecuador, who had looked highly likely to bring about that all-important second half equalizer, were out, even if they did manage to pull a goal back. So this meant Argentina were group winners even before start in their game, against confirmed bottom Bolivia. In a game where the latter gave their best account of themselves in the tournament, neither side managed to break the deadlock, and the Albiceleste won Group B having scored twice (both by Caniggia) in four matches. The fact that they had not conceded at all spoke volumes of Bilardo’s defensive tactics. They had played with both two and three at the heart of their defence, while Maradona, ever the talking-point, had not really reached the dizzying heights which everyone knew he was capable of.
Argentina (1st GrB)
Brazil (2nd GrA)
Paraguay (1st GrA)
Uruguay (2nd GrB)
July 12: 7.30pm
Francescoli, Alzamendi, Paz
July 12: 9.30pm
July 14: 7.30pm
July 14: 9.30pm
Bebeto 2, Romário
July 16: 3.00pm
July 16: 5.00pm
1. Brazil 3 3 0 0 6-0 6
2. Uruguay 3 2 0 1 5-1 4
3. Argentina 3 0 1 2 0-4 1
4. Paraguay 3 0 1 2 0-6 1
Final round dynamics
The tournament had moved from Salvador/Recife and Goiânia to Rio de Janeiro, where the remaining six fixtures were to be played out at possibly the world’s most iconic stadium: Maracanã (officially: Estádio Jornalista Mário Filho). The final, four-team strong mini-series would decide which team would be able to title themselves continental champions. The six ties would be played out over a period of just four days, with two matches each evening on Wednesday and Friday, and then the final pair on the Sunday afternoon.
Getting the ball rolling were Uruguay and Paraguay. Having scraped through the qualification stage, the Uruguayans had surely not realized their big potential just yet. The big question was: Were they going to do so within the realms of this tournament? Paraguay was surely seen as a ‘must-win’ fixture, as they clearly had a lesser ring to their name than the other two. Were they any inferior than Brazil and Argentina, though? They had finished top of their group, although results had probably been more impressive than their performances. They had looked their most useful when they had narrowly defeated Colombia in the second of their four first group stage matches. The Uruguayans, on the other hand, had lost by a single goal against big rivals Argentina in their final tie, which had left them relying on results in the final round to go their way. On paper, they clearly looked the stronger, but were they able to put theory into practice?
The first half proved to be a quite cautious one, and certainly from the Uruguayans, as they sat back and invited the Paraguayans at them. Collectively strong defensively, though, they didn’t give much away inside their final third, even if Zeoli had had to keep out a Cañete drive. Down the other end, they showed just how clinical they were capable of being as they took advantage of a counter along the right hand side. Sosa had got to a ball ahead of goalkeeper Fernández, whose error of judgement coming out from his area, proved irredeemable, as Cañete on the line could not keep out Francescoli from Sosa’s cross. In an even half, Uruguay went into the dressing rooms a massive goal to the good.
After the break, the game went up a notch. It was an excellent advert for football (if adverts for football are ever needed) in South America, as both teams had numerous opportunities to make their mark on the scoreline. Mendoza was twice foiled on the near post by a highly inspired Zeoli as Paraguay pushed long and hard for an equalizer, and Neffa, who found it tough going against Uruguay’s powerful central defensive pairing of Gutiérrez and de León, had a header tipped over. Down the other end, Paraguay had conceded a number of chances themselves, and Alzamendi had been Uruguay’s main culprit in failing to convert any of the counters which he had found himself at the end of. It must have been a huge relief when he eventually did get his name on the scoresheet a few minutes from time, after he’d spurned three big chances previously. In injury time the playful Paz, who had moved up into the ‘Francescoli role’ when the captain had been allowed to take a seat, adding reinforcements to their midfield in the shape of the energetic Correa, rounded off yet another swift break with a cool finish past the luckless Fernández. Zeoli had to stretch one final time deep in injury time, as he kept out Jacquet’s goalbound free-kick. 3-0, their third win of this magnitude in the current competition, could not have been better for Uruguay, while Paraguay would’ve felt hard done by.
It was on to the main course as far as the Maracanã crowd were concerned: It hardly got bigger on the international football calendar than a clash between South America’s main two. Neither had so far managed to thrill the audiences, with a meagre seven goals combined across eight matches. Surely, this particular tie, too, promised little in terms of goals, judging by what the teams had delivered hitherto.
Brazil started with an identical eleven as to last time around, when they had made beating Paraguay’s second-strings look slightly difficult, though now for the second time running on a proper surface following the three first fixtures on the scandalous Fonte Nova pitch, they were at least beginning to resemble a more fluent unit. Argentina were out to deny them space, and were working according to congesting principles in midfield.
The hosts were clearly the dominant team in a goalless opening 45 minutes. They drew a couple of saves from Pumpido after efforts from distance through Dunga and Bebeto, while the Argentinian goalkeeper needed to be alert to prevent the same Bebeto to arrive at the ball first when played through. Lurking on the far post following a deep Silas cross from the right, Bebeto was snubbed by a fine headed Sensini intervention to deny him another sniff. Argentina as an attacking force were more or less null and void. They harboured few other intentions than shutting Brazil out. So far they were content.
Argentina were far from satisfied within nine minutes of the restart. They were two goals down, and Brazil were coasting to victory. There had been no changes in either select during the break, though on 48 minutes, Argentina were finally breached for the first time since the start of the championship, as Silas crossed for Romário to lay it off for Bebeto. The latter finished in spectacular style to open the scoring for his fourth goal of the tournament, which took him top of the charts along with Maldonado of Venezuela. Shortly after, Romário, who was really beginning to come to life, capitalized on an error by libero Brown, whose clearance went straight up into the air, spun away from him and into the little striker’s path, who just nipped in to take it away from Pumpido, rounded the ‘keeper and pot it into the back of the empty net. Cue delirium in the stands.
Argentina made two changes in quick succession, which saw world champion Ricardo Giusti make his first appearance of the ongoing competition following his arrival in the squad once their place in the final series had been confirmed. Caniggia entered for the ineffective Calderón. Burruchaga had made way for Giusti, something which saw Troglio move into the advanced position. It was futile, though. Argentina could never threaten Taffarel’s goal. Caniggia even earned himself a booking for dissent, admittedly after Mauro Galvão had tugged his shirt.
Brazil were full of confidence and swagger in the latter stages, and bossed the remainder of the proceedings, with Romário nearly getting himself into a goalscoring position after chesting down Silas’ pass, spectacularly lifting it over Sensini and Brown in succession, before the former had regained his composure in time to get a last-ditch tackle in to prevent the Netherlands based star to strike. The home side were full value for their goals and the two points. Now the question was: Who were going to stop them from finally recording their first continental title since their last appearance on home soil 40 years earlier?
Having lost, Argentina were now relying on other teams to slip up, as well as needing two wins from their remaining pair of matches in order to stand a chance of finishing top. They had beaten big rivals Uruguay only six days previously, in a game where Bilardo’s tactical nous had triumphed against what was arguably a better team player by player. The Uruguayans had brought so much pace in their transitions, something which had been way too much for Paraguay to handle two days earlier, and that three goal full-time cushion had been fine reward for multiple opportunities on the break.
As the Argentinians had failed to make an impact on Brazil in their first game of the final series, Bilardo had made a couple of changes, but kept with his 4-4-1-1 formation. Libero Brown was not even in the matchday squad of 16, with Ruggeri, who had been sent off early last time these two met, taking over as the spare man at the back. They saw Cuciuffo in a more advanced central defensive role, where he had attempted to mark Francescoli, until the Uruguayan talisman retracted so far back that Cuciuffo no longer dared (or was allowed) to follow. Down the other end, Caniggia worked towards the right hand channel, hoping to feed on passes from Maradona immediately behind him. Their midfield quartet remained intact from the Brazil game, although Troglio and Basualdo had swapped sides.
Uruguay sure were the early pace setters, and they created a number of efforts goalwards, although they couldn’t make either of them count, even if Ostolaza had hit the woodwork from close range. They must have felt the curse of the opposition as their dominance gradually subsided, and by the half hour mark, it was the Argentinians who were looking the stronger. Maradona, the wizzard, had never come so close to his first goal of the tournament as when he collected a pass in the centre-circle and let fly towards goal. His breathtaking 55 yard effort completely caught Zeoli off guard, and the ‘keeper could only watch as the ball sailed over him and smacked off the crossbar. It was pure genius, even if it had not gone in.
The pair of goals which Argentina had conceded against the Brazilians were their first of the tournament, Another followed shortly before the half-time interval, as a back pass by Sensini was picked up by Sosa, who had moved into the centre, off the defender’s radar. It was a simple task for the Italy based marksman to round Pumpido and slot the ball into the back of the net for the opener, and while Uruguay had rarely threatened in the final 20 minutes or so of the opening half, they were probably worthy of a goal altogether.
Both teams had made changes in personnel during the break, with Correa coming on for Perdomo, and forward Balbo replacing Burruchaga for Argentina. The Albiceleste kept searching for an equalizer, and put plenty of pressure on the Uruguayans, who were rarely committing several players forward at the same time. They were not given the same opportunities to counter as they had had against Paraguay, and were somewhat fortunate that Argentina had a headed Balbo goal disallowed for offside on 62 minutes. This made the Argentinians lose their discipline, and shortly after Ruggeri, who had been sent off on 17 minutes in these two countries’ previous clash, had to walk for a cynical foul on Sosa. They were furious! How they actually did not protest to a greater extent when Gutiérrez should’ve been awarded a penalty against for hacking Caniggia down on 71 minutes remains a mystery.
Balbo was again in the thick of the action, but just couldn’t find a way through, and ultimately Sosa accelerated past Sensini and scored one on one with Pumpido for 2-0 with less than ten minutes left for play. It was a sublime goal, where Sosa had displayed his extreme pace, balance and ultimately his eye for goal. At the back, de León and Gutiérrez had stood up well to the onslaught, and Uruguay were now with four points from a possible four, and a healthy 5-0 goal difference. They would be hoping Paraguay could offer the Brazilians some resistance in the game which followed.
No one probably expected similar drama to what had only just unfolded at the Maracanã. Paraguay in all likelihood didn’t have the ability to lure out the same passion in the Brazilian ranks as the other two in the final series, though they had done well so far in the competition. Having lost by three to Uruguay, though, the hosts would definitely wish to at least mirror that scoreline, in order to restore parity ahead of the final day. Any win was surely the primary objective, though.
The physically demanding schedule of playing every other day must have been catching up with teams, although there was little clear evidence of this so far in how the matches portrayed themselves. The Brazilians had done well to make relatively light work of Argentina, and were clad in the same eleven as then. Paraguay had replaced Caballero with the more regular right-back Torales, but were without wide forward Mendoza, whose place to the left in their attack was attended to by Palacios.
After a somewhat sluggish opening, Brazil went ahead within a quarter of an hour. They would often arrive in two against one situations along their flanks, and Mazinho had a field day in how he was fed by Silas and reached the byline on a number of occasions. It was his cross which was expertly headed home by a totally unmarked Bebeto. Later, Romário would be presented with a similar opportunity, though the tall Fernández flung himself like a cat to keep that header out. Brazil racked up several fine goalscoring opportunities, and were showboating toward the end of the half. Romário had definitely got his swagger back, and he was probably fired up a bit, too, after a small scuffle with Zabala. The way he took on a cross from the left, guiding the ball between the two centre-backs with his right foot, before he hit it low with his left, was quite typical of his artistry. Just wide, though.
Although they had been quite inferior, Paraguay had not just sat back and waited for the inevitable. They went forward themselves, and both Palacios and Franco had fine goalscoring opportunities which they failed to capitalize on. Still, the one goal half-time lead was scant reward for a fluent home side, which looked on course for a bigger win.
The second half turned out to be a relatively quiet one, that is once Brazil had twice more got the ball in the back of the net to emulate Uruguay’s scoreline against the Paraguayans. Mazinho was simply unstoppable along the right hand side for the hosts, and for 2-0 he had moved in field, eventually poking it into space for Bebeto, who struck a delicious shot with his left foot high into the roof of the net to leave Fernández with no chance. Just shy of the hour mark, Mazinho was at it again, crossing low for Romário to flick home with his right boot for 3-0.
Paraguay had made a half-time change in bringing on Sanabria for Cañete, though it hadn’t proved to make much of a difference, as they were always second best, even if Brazil were no longer so keen to commit men forward after having scored their third. Romário had been involved halfway through the second period, yet again following a Mazinho cross from the right, when he headed goalwards, only to see Zabala clear it off the line, and then again a couple of minutes later as he pulled towards the centre of the area to tee himself up for a low shot with his right boot – wide of the upright.
Brazil made a double substitution in bringing Alemão and the powerful Renato on for Valdo and Romário respectively, and they never came closer to a fourth than when Renato flicked Mazinho’s cross goalwards on 76 minutes, only to see Fernández get a hand to it to divert the ball on to the crossbar. A 4-0 scoreline would’ve meant they only needed a draw on the final day to become champions. Down the other end, there was rarely trouble for Taffarel, and only Neffa had caused the Brazilian defence anything remotely resembling bother, which was when he’d dragged a left-footed effort wide on 74 minutes.
Both teams just appeared to be playing out time at the end. 3-0 just about the right scoreline. Bebeto was now on six goals, and the tournament’s leading scorer. Mazinho deserved the ‘Man of the Match’ prize for the way he played his part in all three goals. Now a two-day breather, and the teams would have to compose themselves for one final push. That day included the big decider.
The early afternoon fixture was getting under way while the stadium was still filling, and there was no real early atmosphere created in the stands, understandably so, with the Brazilian fans who were arriving having come to see their own team in the following match. Argentina had given as good as they had got against Uruguay, but had ultimately come up short, and had yet to get off the mark in the final series. Paraguay provided them with the possibility of rectifying that, as they themselves had found the other two in this group just too hot to handle.
There was a distinct feel about the game that it didn’t matter a whole lot to either side. Granted, there was a third place up for grabs, but both teams were more or less just going through the motions. The Argentinians had made a number of changes, most notably with Maradona having opted out, not even being found among the five men on the bench. Furthermore, they had needed to replace Ruggeri with another man for the libero post, and this time the choice had fallen on Sensini, who had predominantly been their left-back so far in the championships. Burruchaga, who had failed to leave his print on the tournament, was back in, and was even wearing the captain’s armband in Maradona’s absence. In their 4-2-2-2 formation, the France based midfielder was working in a more advanced role alongside Troglio, who had possibly been their most consistent player throughout the Copa. Balbo, who had come on at the break against Uruguay, now got the chance to show what he could do from start, partnering Calderón up top.
As for the Paraguayans, manager Manera’s faith in their 4-3-3 system was seemingly very strong. They had brought Cáceres back in at right-back, with Torales again getting the chance along the left. Sanabria had come in for only his second start of the tournament in midfield, and he made sure they resumed their midfield order from the second half in their previous match, when Franco had been switched from inside right to inside left (Sanabria then, as now, the inside right). Mendoza had missed out last time, but was back in the starting eleven again, and resumed his regular role down their left hand side. Neffa and Palacios were both more or less playing through the middle inside from Mendoza.
Little happened which raised the pulses during a largely absent-minded first half. A couple of shots on target from Neffa and Argentina’s left-back Díaz respectively, while Neffa also flicked a header from a Mendoza free-kick into the area just wide. The greater controversy had come from a Monzón handball which had looked to be well inside the area. The referee pulled the ball back to the edge of the box, though, and Mendoza’s free-kick was wasted. The replay revealed that it ought to have been a penalty to Paraguay.
At the start of the second half, with Argentina having brought forward Alfaro Moreno on for the invisible Calderón, the world champions did at least have a ten minute spell where they looked more inspired, closing down opponents at a greater rate, and even conjuring up a couple of opportunities. It was just a wicked bounce of the ball which prevented Alfaro Moreno to connect with Troglio’s ball across the six yard area, and with Fernández committed, it should’ve been 1-0. Burruchaga and then Troglio had shots before the hour, but the game soon went back to being drab.
Paraguay brought on the lively Escobar on the hour, prompting a change in formation as the injured Neffa went off. The little schemer came on in an advanced midfield position, leaving them at 4-3-1-2. Their best opportunity of the half fell to Palacios, who rose well to connect with Zabala’s header back across the area following Escobar’s ball in. The striker placed his header just wide of the upright, though.
Gorosito, brought on for Clausen for Argentina, looked lively, like he had done in a previous cameo, and he had an opportunity six minutes from time, when his shot from Balbo’s header back into his direction was saved low to his right by Fernández. A minute later Balbo came perilously close to scoring after another fine Alfaro Moreno run down the left saw Fernández fail to cut the cross out, and on the back stick Balbo headed wide. The second half atmosphere had been much improved around the stands, which had been filling up well in time for the next kick-off. Argentina third, Paraguay fourth after a largely forgettable tie.
The tournament had been building up for its crescendo, and despite the fact that this was part of a final series, and not a ‘final’ as such, it was still the end match which would decide who would be awarded the title. The script could hardly have been better. Brazil were looking to end their 40 year continental title drought. Uruguay were reigning champions. 39 years earlier, to the very day, in the same stadium, the Uruguayans had triumphed in the World Cup, beating a Brazil side which had been looking an irresistable force until then: It had ended 2-1 to Uruguay in the final game of the final series, an identical set-up to today. Could the Celeste do it once again?
Both teams lined up with their strongest elevens, but as this was their seventh fixture in just over two weeks, it was inevitable that they were both beginning to feel a level of fatigue. They both had set patterns of play, and both obviously knew plenty about the opposition prior to kick-off. Brazil were in their, by now, familiar 3-5-2 shape, with the two wide men pushing forward at will, while Uruguay’s 4-3-3 was identically recogniseable.
The first half turned out to be a proper stalemate. Both teams were bent on nullifying the threat from the opposition, and creative forces were typically stopped in their track through the means of a foul. There were a good few of them during the opening 45 minutes, and Uruguay were the team which had committed the highest number, with both Ostolaza and Sosa earning bookings. Branco saw yellow for a push on Herrera. In a more modern era, he would’ve walked for raising his hand into the face of an opponent.
There were few opportunities; for Uruguay there were none. Valdo masterminded the Brazilian play in the first 15-20 minutes, and looked very inspired. Romário had an effort on goal seven minutes in, as he collected a cross from Valdo out on the left after the midfield schemer had darted past Herrera. The toe-poke with the ace striker’s left foot was a comfortable save for Zeoli, who had likewise dealt with a Bebeto free-kick a minute earlier. He saw a Bebeto free-kick, again, just wide on 27 mins, while Valdo had had an effort a yard wide to the right from the left outside the area two minutes earlier. Furthermore, Zeoli comfortably held a daisy-cutter from Mazinho on 32 mins, and then dived to his right to hold on to Branco’s 35 yard free-kick ten minutes later.
Brazil were looking neat and tidy in midfield, and had the majority of the first half possession. Uruguay sat tight and disciplined, and Perdomo/Ostolaza were good in breaking up play. Gutiérrez and de León looked to control Romário and Bebeto, and there were few initiatives along the right from Mazinho this time around. Uruguay were looking to make use of Alzamendi’s pace on the break, while Sosa moved from right to left. Neither Paz nor Francescoli managed to dictate much in terms of attacking play for the visitors, though 0-0 at half-time was alright.
No changes in personnel for either side during the half-time break, and upon resumption, it took Brazil just over four minutes to get the all-important opening goal. Their right hand side, which had so often proved to be a thorn in the opponents’ side, saw Silas and Mazinho combine for the latter to cross towards the near post, where Romário had run himself free from his opponent, and he arrived ahead of Zeoli to flick the ball into the back of the net. 1-0 Brazil.
Uruguay gradually came out from their shell, as they needed to, the longer the half progressed. They conceded another opportunity to Romário when approaching the hour mark, as the little forward rose above the usually towering de León from an excellent Branco cross, though his header this time went straight at Zeoli. Down the other end, a right wing Paz corner was flicked goalwards by Sosa on the near post, though Taffarel was never duly worried, and held comfortably.
Both teams were looking quite jaded as the game approached its final stage, and Uruguay never really managed to put sufficient pressure on the hosts, with several of their players visibly exhausted. Paz was one, and he was replaced by da Silva, while Ostolaza, another very tired performer, came off for Correa. This meant a central midfield two, with Perdomo, who would be fortunate to see the game out after he had put his studs into Mazinho’s knee whilst already on a yellow, and Correa, while Francescoli sat just behind the front three. Disappointingly, they could never threaten the Brazilians’ goal, and they grew increasingly frustrated as the hosts were beginning to play for time with every passing minute.
Brazil saw a couple of late changes, with Mazinho, who had taken that whack to his knee, coming off for Josimar, while Alemão’s introduction for the tiring Silas made plenty of sense in order to reinforce their midfield. They repelled with ease the Uruguayans’ attempts at playing it through the middle, and their central defensive trio didn’t hesitate in booting it long when the situation demanded.
There was never quite the same temperature nor intensity in this tie as for example the Uruguay v Argentina fixture had brought, though it was hardly a surprise given the ardeous schedule of the tournament. Brazil saw the additional minute out without much bother, and could finally chase the ghosts of the 1950 World Cup away. They had done it. They had gained sweet revenge on the Uruguayans.
Maldonado (Venezuela), Sosa (Uruguay)
Iguarán (Colombia), Romário (Brazil)
Alzamendi, Francescoli and Ostolaza (Uruguay), Caniggia (Argentina), Cañete, Ferreira, Neffa and Mendoza (Paraguay), Hirano (Peru), Olmos (Chile)
Astengo, Letelier, Pizarro, Ramírez and Reyes (Chile), Baltazar and Geovani (Brazil), Benítez and Avilés (Ecuador), de Ávila and Higuita (Colombia), Navarro and Reynoso (Peru), Paz (Uruguay)
1 own goal
del Solar (Peru)
Brazil (Sebastião Lazaroni):
1 Taffarel, 2 Mazinho, 3 Mauro Galvão, 4 André Cruz, 5 Branco, 6 Ricardo Gomes, 7 Bebeto, 8 Geovani, 9 Valdo, 10 Tita (injured in first match and subsequently replaced by Bismarck), 11 Romário, 12 Acácio, 13 Zé Teodoro (injured in training and replaced by Josimar), 14 Aldair, 15 Alemão, 16 Cristóvão, 17 Dunga, 18 Renato Gaúcho, 19 Baltazar, 20 Paulo Silas (21 Charles and 22 Zé Carlos added for the second phase)
Colombia (Francisco Maturana):
1 René Higuita, 2 Andrés Escobar, 3 Gildardo Gómez, 4 Wilson Pérez, 5 Carlos Hoyos, 6 Gabriel Gómez, 7 Antony de Ávila, 8 Alexis García, 9 Sergio Angulo, 10 Carlos Valderrama, 11 Bernardo Redín, 12 León Villa, 13 Alexis Mendoza, 14 Leonel Álvarez, 15 Luis Carlos Perea, 16 Arnoldo Iguarán, 17 John Jairo Tréllez, 18 Wilmer Cabrera, 19 Eduardo Niño, 20 Rubén Darío Hernández
Paraguay (Eduardo Luján Manera):
1 Luis Caballero, 2 Augusto Chamorro, 3 Virginio Cáceres, 4 Adolfino Cañete, 5 Rogelio Delgado, 6 Darío Espínola, 7 Roberto Fernández, 8 Buenaventura Ferreira, 9 Julio César Franco, 10 Jorge Guasch, 11 Justo Jacquet, 12 Alfredo Mendoza, 13 Gustavo Neffa, 14 Eumelio Palacios, 15 Catalino Rivarola, 16 Félix Brítez Román, 17 Rubén Ruiz Díaz, 18 Vidal Sanabria, 19 Juan Torales, 20 César Zabala. With teams able to call upon a further pair of players for the final phase, the Paraguayan squad is seen with a total of three additions: 21 Ramón Escobar, 22 Carlos Guirland, 23 Félix Torres. This most likely meant that one from the original 20 had left the tournament with injury.
Peru (José ‘Pepe’ Macia):
1 César Chávez-Riva, 2 Jorge Talavera, 3 Juan Reynoso, 4 Jorge Arteaga, 5 Pedro Requena, 6 José Carranza, 7 Francesco Manassero, 8 José del Solar, 9 Franco Navarro, 10 Julio César Uribe, 11 Jorge Hirano, 12 Jesús Purizaga, 13 Wilmar Valencia, 14 Percy Olivares, 15 Eduardo Rey Muñoz, 16 Jorge Olaechea, 17 Martín Dall’Orso, 18 Carlos Guido, 19 Carlos Torres, 20 César Rodríguez
Venezuela (Carlos Horacio Moreno):
1 César Baena, 2 William Pacheco, 3 Andrés Paz, 4 Pedro Acosta, 5 Luis Rojas, 6 Roberto Cavallo, 7 Herbert Márquez, 8 Laureano Jaimes, 9 Bernardo Añor, 10 Carlos Maldonado, 11 Noel Sanvicente, 12 José Gómez, 13 René Torres, 14 Juan Pedro Febles, 15 Luis Camacaro, 16 Carlos Domínguez, 17 Ildemaro Fernández, 18 Héctor Rivas, 19 Stalin Rivas, 20 Enrique Samuel
Argentina (Carlos Bilardo):
1 Nery Pumpido, 2 Carlos Alfaro Moreno, 3 José Basualdo, 4 Sergio Batista, 5 José Luis Brown, 6 Jorge Burruchaga, 7 Gabriel Calderón, 8 Claudio Caniggia, 9 Néstor Clausen, 10 Diego Armando Maradona, 11 José Luis Cuciuffo, 12 Luis Islas, 13 Hernán Díaz, 14 Héctor Enrique, 15 Néstor Gorosito, 16 Pedro Monzón, 17 Oscar Ruggeri, 18 Roberto Sensini, 19 Pedro Troglio, 20 Julio César Falcioni. Called up for the final phase of matches: 21 Ricardo Giusti, 22 Abel Balbo
Bolivia (Jorge Habegger):
1 Luis Galarza, 2 Carlos Arias, 3 Carlos Borja, 4 Marco Etcheverry, 5 Marco Ferrufino, 6 Ricardo Fontana, 7 Arturo García, 8 Eligio Martínez, 9 José Milton Melgar, 10 Roly Paniagua, 11 Álvaro Peña, 12 Marco Barrero, 13 Miguel Rimba, 14 Rómer Roca, 15 Marciano Saldías, 16 Fernando Salinas, 17 Erwin Sánchez, 18 Francisco Takeo, 19 Eduardo Villegas, 20 Ramiro Castillo
Chile (Orlando Aravena):
1 Roberto Rojas, 2 Patricio Reyes, 3 Patricio Yáñez, 4 Leonel Contreras, 5 Hugo Gonzáles, 6 Jaime Pizarro, 7 Héctor Puebla, 8 Raúl Ormeño, 9 Juan Carlos Letelier, 10 Juan Covarrubias, 11 Fernando Astengo, 12 Marco Cornez, 13 Jaime Vera, 14 Jorge Carrasco, 15 Juvenal Olmos, 16 Osvaldo Hurtado, 17 Jaime Ramírez, 18 Alejandro Hisis, 19 Lukas Tudor, 20 Óscar Wirth
Ecuador (Dušan Drašković):
1 Carlos Morales, 2 Jimmy Izquierdo, 3 Hólger Quiñónez, 4 Wilson Macías, 5 Kléber Fajardo, 6 Luis Capurro, 7 Pietro Marsetti, 8 Álex Aguinaga, 9 Byron Tenório, 10 Hamilton Cuvi, 11 Nelson Guerrero, 12 Víctor Mendoza, 13 Claudio Alcívar, 14 Raúl Avilés, 15 Enrique Verduga, 16 Julio César Rosero, 17 Carlos Muñoz, 18 Tulio Quinteros, 19 Hermen Benítez, 20 Jimmy Montanero
Uruguay (Óscar Tabárez):
1 Javier Zeoli, 2 Nelson Gutiérrez, 3 Hugo de León, 4 José Herrera, 5 José Perdomo, 6 Alfonso Domínguez, 7 Antonio Alzamendi, 8 Gabriel Correa, 9 Enzo Francescoli, 10 Rubén Paz, 11 Rubén Sosa, 12 Jorge Seré, 13 Daniel Revelez, 14 José Saldanha, 15 Santiago Ostolaza, 16 Sergio Martínez, 17 Carlos Aguilera, 18 Rubén Pereira, 19 Rubén da Silva, 20 Pablo Bengoechea. They had had the opportunity to add two further players to their roster for the final phase of matches, and they were: 21 Óscar Ferro, 22 Edison Suárez