Calling a major final is a hard task.
Even when one team seems to be far superior to the other, one can never be completely certain of the outcome. Vagaries of human nature, luck, personal, confidence, nerves and complacency, along with the odd case of the underdog playing way out of its skin, preclude an upset.
So when two teams are evenly matched, almost as evenly as the two South American nations competing for the 2011 Copa America, predicting the final result, with any degree of confidence is nigh on impossible.
Uruguay, however delivered a perfect masterclass to put all doubt to bed. Slight favourites going in, they put Paraguay to the sword with a thumping performance that gave new meaning to the word emphatic. With both teams unbeaten and only one regulation in between them in their 10 matches, a cagey defence-fest seemed to be on the cards.
However, once Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan got going, Uruguay moved through the gears to display the potent attacking brilliance that everyone knew was in them. Suarez got the first after 11 minutes before Forlan netted a brace, one before halftime and one at the death, to seal a complete 3-0 win.
This was Uruguay's 15 Copa America title and one of their best vintages ever. This team seems destined for further glory, after showing that their fourth place finish at the World Cup was no flash in the pan.
Resolute in midfield, classy in defence and electric in attack, the Celeste seem to have all the parts needed for a great national team. With the above three components working in harmony and an enviable strength in depth, other countries need fear their matches against Oscar Tabarez's side. The one time Milan coach played his cards perfectly, pacing his charges throughout, with a composed group stage campaign, the high of eliminating Argentina and then par for the course with good wins over Peru and Paraguay.
While Uruguay only won two of its five matches at the tournament, in the buildup to the final, it never once looked like losing. Not during draws against Peru and Chile or while conceding an equalizer to Argentina. They kept their shape, retained their belief and maintained their tempo. Once belief had been added to the mix, a form of destiny took over. Uruguay had the winning script in the final and then executed it to perfection.
For Paraguay, it was so close, yet so far. After having overachieved in coming this far, their campaign looks to be a mix of performing above their abilities in their draws against and elimination of Brazil, and barely overcoming their opponents in their draws against Ecuador and Venezuela. The latter, like Brazil, they played twice, and we unable to beat despite racking up a 3-1 lead.
Most telling was that Paraguay had gotten to the final without wining a single game, relying on penalty kicks to get past both Brazil, in the quarters and Venezuela, in the final four. Resilient in defence, they had insisted on playing a smothering, morbid style despite possessing some of the most sparkling attacking talents in the modern game. In the end, despite the efforts of Dario Veron and the coaching of Gerardo Martino, Paraguay were undone by the quicksilver machinations of their opponents's twin attack-corps.
In retrospect, the suspension of star central defender Antolin Alcaraz, was always going to hurt them. Despite Venezuela being off-colour in their semi-final, with both Juan Arango and Tomas Rincon having an tepid day, Paraguay never scored and Alcaraz's absence was scarcely noticed. In the final however, such a hole in the middle of their defence, was never going to be ignored by an assured and wily Uruguayan offence.
Their campaign was ironic in that despite defending in depth and playing with such an emphasis on ball retention and opposition clampdowns, Paraguay's defence was what let them down at critical moments. Before the demolition in the final, Paraguay had let a late 2-1 lead slip against Brazil before surrendering two goals at the final whistle to draw 3-3 with Venezuela. Both games in the group stage.
While their attacking corps of Roque Santa Cruz, Nelson Valdez, Cristian Riveros and the explosive Lucas Barrios had done well enough to keep them in games earlier, the marshaling of captain Diego Lugano and Sebastian Coates was simply too much for Paraguay to break free from. Santa Cruz was absent, Barrios didn't get off the bench, the red and white shirts registered just one shot on goal.
Paraguay had no plan B or even a clearly defined Plan A. Once Suarez's opening goal went in, one sensed the final was already over.
Uruguay 3 (Forlan (2), Suarez)