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Top Three Biggest Upsets in Copa América History

Copa America Biggest Upsets - Brazil Predicted Lineup

The 48th edition of Copa América is right around the corner. Holders Argentina take on debutants Canada in the opening match at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Ahead of this summer’s highly-anticipated opener in Atlanta, we look back at the three biggest upsets in Copa América history – limiting ourselves to games that have taken place since the start of the new millennium.

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2001: Brazil 0-2 Honduras

The build-up to the 2001 Copa América was chaotic, to say the least.

Due to security concerns in Colombia, CONMEBOL announced on July 1, ten days before the opening game, that the tournament had been cancelled. They then reversed their decision on July 6, confirming that the competition would go ahead as initially advertised after all.

Reigning CONCACAF champions Canada were set to make their Copa debut. However, during this five-day period, their training camp was disbanded with Canada Soccer confirming that they would not be able to reconfigure the squad in time. Costa Rica took their place.

Read more: Argentina Predicted Lineup Vs. Canada For June 20

At the same time, due to the aforementioned security issues, Argentina withdrew from the tournament after many of their players had received death threats. Honduras accepted the invitation to replace them, doing so on the same day as the opening game, arriving with barely enough players to field a team. They unsurprisingly lost 1-0 to the other 11th-hour stand-in team, Costa Rica, merely 48 hours later.

However, against all odds, Los Catrachos then beat Bolivia 2-0 and Uruguay 1-0 with Amado Guevara the scorer of all three goals, seeing them go through in second place.

Nevertheless, no one gave Honduras a prayer against back-to-back holders Brazil, who’d also reached the last two World Cup Finals. They beat Italy in 1994 before losing to France in 1998.

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Between 1995 and 2009, Brazil would feature in five Copa Finals as well as three successive World Cup Finals and four Confederations Cup Finals. This really was a period of dominance for the Seleção, although that was not reflected here.

Those inside Estadio Palogrande on July 23 2001 witnessed an upset for the ages, as an own goal from Juliano Belletti followed by a stoppage-time clincher from Saúl Martínez saw debutants Honduras dump out heavyweights Brazil 2-0 in Manizales.

La H’s fairytale run would come to an end three days later as they were beaten 2-0 by hosts and eventual winners Colombia in the semi-finals. This was still a remarkable debut appearance at the Copa for Honduras, reminiscent of Denmark at Euro ’92, even if Ramón Maradiaga’s side couldn’t go all the way.

This remains Honduras’ one and only Copa América appearance, with a play-off defeat to Costa Rica earlier this year, but they certainly made the most of it.

2011: Brazil 0-0 Paraguay – 0-2 On Penalties

Fast forward a decade and we’re in Argentina, with Brazil seeking to win a third successive Copa América title for the very first time. They beat their fiercest rivals La Albiceleste in the finals of both 2004 and 2007.

Led by Mano Menezes, the holders topped their group unbeaten, with a teenager by the name of Neymar Junior scoring a brace (his first two competitive international goals) during a 4-2 win over Ecuador in Córdoba.

This meant that the Seleção would face Paraguay in the quarter-finals. They were overwhelming favourites to prevail considering Los Guaraníes had failed to win any of their three group games.

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At this point, Brazil and Paraguay had met on 76 occasions with the Seleção winning 47 of them. La Albirroja had only 11 victories to their name, just four of which had come post-1968.

Nevertheless, Tata Martino’s men battled to a goalless draw as both teams ended the night down to ten-men. Lucas Leiva and Antolín Alcaraz were sent off during extra time in La Plata, and a penalty shootout was required at Estadio Único.

Amazingly, Brazil missed all four of their spot-kicks. Elano, Thiago Silva, André Santos, and Fred all failed to convert from 12 yards, meaning Paraguay could complete the shock despite converting only twice.

In the history of Copa América, 29 penalty shootouts have taken place, with Brazil the only side to fail to score a single spot-kick.

When you include the World Cup, Women’s World Cup, European Championships, Africa Cup of Nations, and Confederations Cup, Switzerland (2006), Portugal (2017), and Spain (2022) are the only other teams to end a penalty shootout without scoring. Even then, they each only took three spot-kicks, emphasising the remarkable nature of Brazil’s exit.

Copa América Centenario 2016: Brazil 0-1 Peru

It would only get worse for Brazil when the Copa América Centenario came around in 2016.

The Seleção were certainly at a low ebb coming into this contest in the US, failing in the quarter-finals at the last two Copa Américas. The entire nation were still recovering from the Mineiraço, a 7-1 hammering at the hands of Germany in the World Cup semi-finals on home soil.

In an attempt to rediscover former glories, Brazil re-hired Dunga as manager.

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This tournament stateside certainly did not go as well as his previous triumphs: they were held to a goalless draw by Ecuador at the Rose Bowl in their opening fixture.

Brazil required just a draw from their final group game to advance. Remarkably, they were beaten 1-0 by Peru in Foxborough, with Raúl Ruidíaz the only scorer at Gillette Stadium.

Prior to this catastrophe in Massachusetts, the Seleção were unbeaten in 16 encounters with La Blanquirroja, dating back 31 years, whilst Peru have still only ever won five of 52 head-to-head encounters.

This defeat saw Brazil crash out in the Copa América group phase, which remains the only time in 37 participations that they’ve failed to reach at least the quarter-finals.


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