Uruguay and Paraguay Reach 2011 Copa America Final Against All Odds
Going into the Copa America, it seemed as though Argentina and Brazil were going to be duking it out in the final. Argentina was the host country and featured the best player in the world in Lionel Messi.
From the opening match, where Argentina was pushed to a draw by Bolivia, it was clear that we were in for a few surprises along the way to the Copa America Final. Even so, nobody could have that Uruguay and Paraguay would be squaring off in the final.
Uruguay came into this tournament with 11-to-1 odds. While getting to the final with 11-to-1 odds isn't unheard of, they were going to have to take on Mexico and Chile in the group play.
Right off the bat, they were rocked in their opening match against 150-to-1 long shot Peru, who walked away with a 1-1 draw. If they couldn't handle Peru, how could they expect to compete against Chile?
After the embarrassing draw, they were fed another draw by Chile. That meant if they were unable to take down Mexico, they were going to watch Peru and Chile advance to the quarterfinals without them.
As it turns out, they all managed to advance.
Uruguay's prize? How about a date with Argentina.
Argentina got off to a rocky start, but they are the type of team who can catch fire in a hurry. Messi had been relatively quiet to this point, so it seemed he was due for a monster game against a worthy opponent.
Uruguay took the match to PKs, where they took down the runaway pre-tournament favorite and advanced to the semifinals.
They got a huge break in their semifinal matchup, where they would be taking on the same Peruvians who forced them to a draw in their opening match. While Peru proved their worth, they were clearly the worst team in the semifinals. Uruguay had no problem taking them down 2-0 and advancing to the final.
Paraguay didn't win a single match until the knockout stages. They were held to scoreless draws against Brazil and Ecuador and failed to take down Venezuela in their final match of group play, which resulted in a 3-3 draw.
They were limping into the quarterfinals. Like Uruguay, their quarterfinal matchup was a doozie. They were facing Brazil, who was pegged as the odds on favorite to take on Argentina in the final. Like Uruguay, Paraguay forced their respective quarterfinal juggernaut opponent to PKs, where they emerged victorious against all odds.
As unlikely as it may seem, Paraguay hasn't only scored a goal in one match of this entire tournament, excluding penalty kicks. Even in their semifinal match against Venezuela, they took a scoreless draw past extra time and into PKs.
Uruguay and Paraguay have seen a similar road to the final. In a tournament that saw heavy hitters fall early and underdogs reign supreme, it's only fitting that the final features Uruguay and Paraguay.