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Copa America Team of the Tournament - Lionel Messi, Neymar, Lautaro Martinez

:Headline: Copa America Team of the Tournament - Lionel Messi, Neymar, Lautaro Martinez:
Sports Mole selects its Copa America team of the tournament, including Lionel Messi, Neymar and Lautaro Martinez.
Sports Mole

The 2021 edition of the Copa America was wrapped up on Sunday, as Argentina lifted the trophy for the 15th time in their history, breaking a 28-year drought in the tournament.

They did that by beating host nation Brazil 1-0 at the Maracana in the final, having previously defeated Ecuador and Colombia in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, while the Selecao fell short after beating Chile and Peru in their route to the final.

Elsewhere, Colombia netted an injury-time winner to defeat Peru 3-2 in the third-place playoff, having gradually grown into the tournament with a victory over Uruguay in a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals, while their opponents also required a shootout to get past Paraguay.

It was Bolivia and Venezuela who failed to qualify out of the group stage, with the former failing to record a point while the latter's two draws were not enough to book them a place in the final eight.

Here, Sports Mole selects its team of the tournament from this year's Copa America.



DEFENCE

While David Ospina and Claudio Bravo caught eyes alongside Brazil stopper Ederson, it was Argentina's Emiliano Martinez who shone above the rest in this tournament, playing a key role in his nation's triumph and collecting the Golden Glove as the tournament's best goalkeeper. The Aston Villa stopper stood strong and led the charts for the competition's goalkeepers with an 85.7% save rate to ensure La Albiceleste only conceded three goals in their seven games at the Copa America, keeping four clean sheets in the process, while he also produced heroics in their shootout victory over Colombia to deny Davinson Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Edwin Cardona.

On the right-hand side of a back four, Danilo was an experienced head for Brazil, having featured in all seven games and started six of those. While he did contribute plenty to the Selecao's attacking threat, often producing crosses when camped in the opposition half, it was Danilo's defensive efforts that stood out as he constantly looked assured in dealing with the wide threat of the opposition, helping his nation to four clean sheets.

In the first of two centre-back spots is Danilo's compatriot Marquinhos, who was arguably the key man in Brazil's back line as they had to dig deep to defend one-goal leads in both the quarter-finals and semi-finals, and the Paris Saint-Germain star also found the net at the other end to put his nation 1-0 up against Ecuador. While his experienced teammate Thiago Silva also deserves recognition for a strong tournament, it is Marquinhos who truly shone with a team-high 2.8 aerial duels won per match, and did not deserve to be on the losing side on Sunday.

Nevertheless, it was his opposite number Nicolas Otamendi who got his hands on the trophy at the Maracana, having played a crucial role in Argentina's knockout campaign with a series of monumental defensive displays. Despite a shaky start to the tournament, the Benfica man showed his experience and class when it truly mattered, never more apparent than a commanding performance in the final as he led a back line that stood strong to defend a one-goal lead and limit the pre-tournament favourites to few chances.

Rounding off the back four is fellow Argentinian Marcos Acuna, who was another key man in the Argentinian defensive line as he consistently dominated his flank at both ends of the pitch. While he was rotated at certain stages of the tournament, manager Lionel Scaloni called upon the Sevilla man to start in the final, showing the degree of trust, and it was repaid with another stellar performance on the big stage. Acuna shone defensively against several tough attacking lines, while his links with the likes of Messi and Lautaro Martinez meant La Albiceleste always had a numbers advantage going forward.



MIDFIELD

While the Argentinian trio of Rodrigo De Paul, Leandro Paredes and Giovani Lo Celso all have more than reasonable claims to feature in the Team of the Tournament, we have opted for a base of two defensive-minded players who went above and beyond for their sides, starting with Colombian enforcer Wilmar Barrios, who was arguably the standout player for the third-placed nation, consistently breaking up opposition attacks and shielding his team's back four, while he also kept La Tricolor ticking with a whopping 88% pass success rate.

He is joined by Peru's Yoshimar Yotun, who shone as Los Incas narrowly missed out on their second consecutive finals, starting every game and only being substituted off once in the 74th minute of the opening defeat to Brazil. Alongside Renato Tapia, Yotun formed a formidable wall shielding the back four, and his move further up the field for the quarter-final clash with Paraguay reaffirmed his impact, as the defence looked noticeably weaker while he contributed with a goal and an assist as well as scoring a penalty as they went on to win the shootout. The Cruz Azul midfielder again got on the scoresheet to put his side ahead in the third-place playoff, and he has a right to feel disappointed as they fell short in that game.



ATTACK

Starting a dangerous attacking line is Argentinian talisman Lionel Messi, who scooped up the Player of the Tournament award having led the assist charts with five and shared the top scorer award with Luis Diaz on four. Having previously failed to win a major tournament with his nation, Messi finally fired his side to a Copa America trophy this year with a series of standout displays, and while the final did not see one of his better displays, his performances in the rest of the competition saw him stamp his mark on the tournament, making him the first name on our team sheet, meaning Colombia's Juan Cuadrado falls short despite an impressive tournament.

Messi is first joined by Neymar, who may have slightly disappointed in the knockout stage in line with Brazil's relative dip in form, but nonetheless stood out as one of the tournament's top players. The Paris Saint-Germain attacker led his nation to the final with two goals and three assists in six appearances, including an eye-catching piece of skill to set Lucas Paqueta up to hit the winner in their 1-0 semi-final victory over Peru, more than making up for his struggles to tuck good chances away throughout this year's competition.

The final man in the trio supporting a lone striker is Colombian winger Luis Diaz, whose tally of four goals from open play was the most by anyone at the Copa America, as he helped a misfiring side to within touching distance of the final. The Porto man shone while a range of Colombian attackers failed to find the net, and quickly made himself a key man after being on the bench early in the group stage before serving a suspension in the final group game for a red card.

Diaz's goals were all of major importance too, firstly scoring a stunning overhead kick to put Colombia 1-0 up against Brazil, before he netted an equaliser to take their semi-final tie with Argentina to a penalty shootout, and he rounded off a strong tournament with a brace in the 3-2 win over Peru in the third-place playoff, including an eye-catching long-range effort to win the game in the 94th minute. Diaz did more than enough after breaking into the starting side to earn a place in the Team of the Tournament ahead of Peruvian duo Christian Cueva and Andre Carrillo and Brazil's Lucas Paqueta and Richarlison.

Rounding off the team is its fifth Argentinian player, as forward Lautaro Martinez was one of the main reasons that La Albiceleste went all the way and lifted the trophy. After a relatively slow start to the tournament, including dropping to the bench in place of Sergio Aguero against Paraguay, the Inter Milan star bounced back with three consecutive goals, firstly in their group win over Bolivia before getting on the scoresheet in their 3-0 quarter-final victory over Ecuador and the 1-1 draw in the semi-final with Colombia. Martinez would again step up for his side in the penalty shootout as he made no mistake from 12 yards to ensure they stayed in the lead and would go on to progress, while his dynamic play style means the 23-year-old was a key man throughout each game that he played in, helping his nation to their 15th Copa America title and pipping the likes of Peru's Gianluca Lapadula and Chile's Eduardo Vargas to a spot in the Team of the Tournament.



SPORTS MOLE'S COPA AMERICA TEAM OF THE TOURNAMENT

Sports Mole's Copa America team of the tournament (4-2-3-1): Martinez; Danilo, Marquinhos, Otamendi, Acuna; Barrios, Yotun; Messi, Neymar, Diaz; Martinez


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