They went undefeated except against each other, so it’s natural that players from champion Chile and runner-up Argentina dominate our Copa Centenario Best XI. Argentina outscored its foes, 18-2, and Chile bettered its opponents 16-5 until they stalemated in the final to force a penalty-kick shootout. The choices for Copa Centenario Best XI, as selected by the editors of Soccer America, place an emphasis on the influence these players had on the success of their teams.
Claudio Bravo (Chile)
The 33-year-old Barcelona keeper more than made up for a rough start in group play, which included the 2-1 opening loss to Argentina, by posting only shutouts in Chile’s three knockout wins. In the final, Chile’s captain made perhaps the save of the tournament on Sergio Aguero’s overtime header and saved Lucas Biglia spot kick in the shootout.
Argentina’s Sergio Romero had a flawless tournament and his fine foot-skills played a role in Argentina’s possession play. But Bravo’s final heroics gave him the edge.
Mauricio Isla (Chile)
Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina)
Gary Medel (Chile)
Jean Beausejour (Chile)
Outside backs Isla and Beausejour were key to Chile’s lightening quick counterattacks and high-pressing game, while Medel marshaled its central defense. Otamendi led the Argentine defense that gave up only two goals in seven games. Otamendi also opened the scoring in Argentina’s rout of Panama.
Honorable mention: The Colombian central defense tandem of Cristian Zapata and Jeison Murillo, who kept Paraguay at bay during its furious comeback attempt in Los Cafeteros’ 2-1 group win, got it through the quarterfinal win over Peru when Colombia’s offense stuttered.
The 23-year-old John Brooks played superbly in the U.S. central defense until the semifinal rout at the hands of Argentina and he sat out the USA’s 1-0 loss to Colombia in the third-place game.
Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
Arturo Vidal (Chile)
Perhaps the world’s best all-around midfielder, the hard-tackling Vidal scored both goals in Chile’s 2-1 win over Bolivia. He helped enable Chile’s historic 7-0 rout of Mexico by rendering El Tri’s midfield ineffective and assisted on two of the goals. He managed, after an 18th-minute yellow card in the opener against Argentina, to avoid another caution until the Mexico game and sat out the semifinal.
But in the final, Vidal was again at his best, constantly disrupting Argentina’s buildups and his burst forward prompted the 43rd minute red-card foul by Marcos Rojo that ruined Argentina’s man-advantage after Marcelo Diaz’s 28th minute ejection.
Mascherano defended like a tiger in midfielder and dropped into the Argentine backline to frequently to aid the backline and orchestrate buildups once the ball was won.
Eduardo Vargas (Chile)
Alexis Sanchez (Chile)
Clint Dempsey (USA)
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
Coming into the tournament with a back injury, Messi played only 75 minutes in group play but managed a hat trick and an assist in the 5-0 win over Panama. In his first start, he scored and assisted in the 4-1 win over Venezuela. In the 4-0 semifinal win over the USA, he assisted twice and scored with a brilliant free kick. The tournament ended in major disappointment for the world’s greatest player, who missed his shootout spot kick, but he had produced five goals and four assists.
Sanchez hit two golazos in the crucial win over 4-2 win over Panama and scored against Mexico. He got credited for one assist but played a part in many other Chilean goals.
Vargas won the tournament Golden Boot with six goals, four against Mexico and two vs. Panama. The 26-year-old with a modest club career -- he scored two goals for Hoffenheim in the last Bundesliga season -- goes world-class when he puts on his nation’s jersey. He also assisted on Sanchez’s amazing goal against Panama with a pin-point chip after juking two defenders.
The USA scored seven goals en route to a fourth-place finish. Dempsey scored three of them and assisted on three others.