Conmebol shrugs off Copa América critics

The South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) has brushed aside criticism over Brazil’s staging of the 2019 Copa América, stating that the event will serve as a template for future editions.

Conmebol’s showpiece national team tournament is in the midst of change, and will return in 2020 as Argentina and Colombia’s co-hosting heralds a switch to the Copa América being held in even-numbered years on a four-year cycle.

The 2019 Copa América concluded yesterday (Sunday), as the host nation won its first title in 12 years by beating Peru 3-1. The tournament has also ended a cycle of major events in Brazil, a run that has included the 2014 Fifa World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

However, Brazil’s staging of the Copa América has been mired with numerous complaints, culminating with the Argentinian Football Association (AFA) last week issuing Conmebol with a six-page letter outlining its concerns.

While Conmebol did not address the complaints directly at its final media briefing before Sunday’s final, the organisation stressed that Brazil’s staging has been positive as a whole. “We are not saying that we are making a perfect tournament, but we are creating the base, the parameters for the future,” Hugo Figueredo, competitions director at Conmebol, said, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The tournament has seen empty seats at numerous stadia, with most group stage games failing to attract attendances exceeding 20,000. Even Wednesday’s semi-final between Peru and Chile was met with empty seats, but organisers said that of the one million tickets put on sale, 800,000 people attended the 24 matches up to Friday, with another 100,000 expected for the final and the third-place game.

The standard of pitches was also criticised, while the debut of video assistant referee (VAR) technology at a Copa América also proved a hot talking point. “There will always be criticism,” Figueredo said. “VAR is a tool, and the decision belongs to the referee.”