It’s going to be a wild summer of international soccer tournaments – kicking things off is the Copa América Centenario, followed by the European Championship, and later the Olympics.
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The tournament is being held as a celebration of the 100 year anniversary of Copa América. It features all of the teams from CONMEBOL and six from CONCACAF. Since the Centenario is a mash-up of Copa América and Copa Oro, we’re taking a look at the best goals scored by all of this year’s participants in either of those tournaments:
Maradona very nearly took this spot at the 1989 Copa América, but since he missed, we’ll go with an effort that similarly left a goalkeeper feeling hopeless in 2007. After being played in by Carlos Tevez, Lionel Messi took one touch inside the 18-yard box and chipped the ball over Oswaldo Sánchez’s head.
Swedish-born and raised Martin Smedberg-Dalence made his debut for Bolivia – his father’s native country – in 2014. He made an immediate impact at the next year’s Copa, scoring a goal that helped the underdog to a victory over Ecuador and a place in the knockout stages. Smedberg-Dalence swept a perfect shot from almost 30 yards out into the bottom right corner.
As the dominant force in Copa América from 1997 to 2007 (winning four out of five times), there’s plenty of Brazilian highlights. There’s some lowlights, too, like the penalty shootout in 2011 that everyone’s probably tried to forget. Ronaldinho gave us plenty of magic moments throughout his career, and it didn’t take long for him to make noise at his first Copa. He scored the sixth in a 7-0 rout against Venezuela by flicking the ball over one defender and then bursting past a second. OG Ronaldo is a close runner-up for that time he took a defender’s soul with one juke.
La Roja finally won its first Copa América in 2015. Playing on home soil, Eduardo Vargas became the joint-top scorer for the tournament with four goals. This effort against Peru in the semi-final stood out as the best goal of the cup. Vargas received the ball more than 30 yards away from the goal, and the defenders didn’t press him – probably because it’d take a ridiculous blend of overconfidence and skill to nail that shot. Unfortunately for Peru, Vargas dribbled forward and blasted a rocket into the top-left corner.
Colombia’s been blessed with talented goalscorers, but the player to deliver their only Copa is defender Iván Córdoba, who in 2001 beat Óscar “Conejo” Pérez by heading a pass from a free kick into the side netting. Conejo, meanwhile, is still outchea and still balling.
In 2007, Walter Centeno gave Costa Rica a 1-0 lead against Canada with an excellently placed shot from outside the box. Canada still won the game 2-1, but two years later, another of Centeno’s efforts helped Costa Rica salvage a 2-2 draw.
Miller Bolaños knocked in one of the best goals of 2015 against Bolivia, as Ecuador tried to overcome a 3-0 deficit. Unfortunately, Ecuador couldn’t find one more goal and were, surprisingly, eliminated early.
At the 2009 Copa Oro, Haiti put up a strong fight and nearly pulled off a huge upset against the United States. Monés Chèry’s goal gave Haiti a 2-1 lead, and would have been an amazing winner had it not been for a late Stuart Holden equalizer.
An amazing underdog story, Jamaica fell just short of glory at the 2015 Gold Cup when they lost to Mexico in the final. To get that far, they had to beat the USA in the semi-final, and the difference proved to be this Giles Barnes stunner. Capitalizing on a goof by Brad Guzan that gave Jamaica a free kick on the edge of the box, Barnes beat Guzan and the wall with precise placement.
El Tri’s killer team at the 2011 Copa Oro stormed through the group stages with three wins and a goal difference of +13. In the final against the rival United States, a Mexico win seemed inevitable– even after going down 2-0. Then, Pablo Barrera scored, and the USA only went downhill from there. Gio dos Santos’ combination of beautiful footwork and deadly accuracy put it away for Mexico. You could see the frustration on Eric Lichaj’s face. He couldn’t have been better positioned, but his legs failed to carry him high enough.
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Panama advanced all the way to the Copa Oro finals in 2005 by beating Colombia 3-2 in the semi-finals. From a free kick, Ricardo Phillips made a run at the front post and beat Faryd Mondragón with a header.
Nelson Valdez scored a goal at Copa América 2015 that damn near killed excitable commentator Ray Hudson. After falling behind 2-0 to one of the tournament’s strongest teams, Valdez started the Paraguayan comeback with a lovely curled effort from 25 yards out.
In 2015, Paolo Guerrero matched Chile’s Eduardo Vargas with four goals, but the credit for this one goes to André Carrillo. After giving Peru the lead in the third-place game against Paraguay, Carrillo helped his team seal the win with a quick counterattack. He started 25 yards from his own goal when he controlled a ball falling out of the sky with one soft touch. He then beat four Paraguayan defenders before finding Joel Sánchez, who fed Guerrero to seal third place.
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Not only is this one of the best goals in US Men’s National Team history, it’s also one of the most important. By 2007, the United States had won the Gold Cup before, but never by beating Mexico in a final. Unlucky Oswaldo Sánchez gets the honor of being the only player on this list twice.
Having won the tournament 15 times – including six of the first 10 tournaments – Uruguay is the king of Copa América. Even though recent teams have had Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlán, and Luis Suárez, the best goal goes to Fabián Estoyanoff in 2004. He took advantage of a bad clearance by letting it bounce one time before using excellent technique to send the ball over the keeper and into the side of the net.
In 2011, Venezuela advanced further than ever before at a Copa América – a sign of the team’s progress. This Salomón Rondón shot had way too much power on it for the keeper to have a chance.