The 43rd installment of the famous continental event kicks off on July 1, and Goal.com looks back at some of the most memorable moments in its fabled historyArgentina will welcome their neighbours into its borders for the 2011 Copa America in the month of July, and will enter as favourites to lift the 43rd edition of the tournament.
The event has been blessed across the years with an array of talented players, who have helped to create a legacy that instills South America's showpiece as one of the most revered and anticipated competitions on the international calendar.
Before the hosts kick off the tournament against Bolivia, Goal.com remembers some defining moments from the 90-year history of the Copa America
A – Alfio Basile's back-to-back wins
Since the Copa America transformed into its current guise in 1975, only one coach has collected the crown on two occasions - Alfio Basile. The tactician masterminded Argentina's wins in 1991 and 1993, with the latter proving to be the last major title lifted by the Albiceleste on the international stage.
B – Batigol's brilliant brace clinches 1993 crown
Gabriel Batistuta is one of the tournament's most recognisable goalscorers, and the 1993 final remains his finest moment. Having earned the top scorer accolade in 1991, netting six times, he fired a devastating double against Mexico, with two typically powerful finishes to help Argentina retain their title.
C – Chilavert's Copa refusal
Paraguay's Jose Luis Chilavert was among the finest goalkeepers in the world in 1999, fresh from an impressive display at the World Cup in France, but shocked his domestic government by refusing to take part in the Copa America that year, due to be hosted in his homeland. He felt that money earned by football in the country should have been invested in their education system.
D – Dynamic Rivaldo and Ronaldo rule in '99
In one of their most dominant Copa victories, Brazil obliterated the opposition in Paraguay, and their powerful duo of Rivaldo and Ronaldo shared the responsibility of shooting the Selecao to the title in 1999. Both netted five times, sharing the top goalscorer accolade, and struck a goal each in the quarter-final win over Argentina, and crushed Uruguay 3-0 in the final.
E – Enzo Francescoli's treble triumph
Francescoli remains one of Uruguayan football's finest proponents of the game, and the influential creator was an indispensible member of their last three wins in 1983, 1987 and 1995, captaining them to glory in the latter. El Principe remains the nation's most-capped outfield player and his performances in the Copa are the stuff of legend.
F – From 12 yards
Major tournaments have been peppered with penalty kick drama in recent times. Perhaps the most thrilling example was in the 2004 final, when, after Adriano's dramatic injury-time equaliser in 90 minutes, Brazil overcame Argentina thanks to Gabriel Heinze's woeful effort. In both 2004 and 2007, Uruguay were on the receiving end of heart-wrenching defeats to the Selecao at the semi-final stage.
G – Goals, Goals, Goals
The signs are positive that we will see a continuation of the goal glut that has characterised the previous two tournaments. The 2004 edition enjoyed a healthy average of just over three goals per game, while in Venezuela in 2007, the strikers emerged on top with a record-best of 86 strikes, and an overall average of 3.31 across the competition.
H – Honduras humble Brazil
The 2001 tournament was forgettable for the Selecao for many reasons: the talented squad (one that would win the World Cup 12 months later) completely underacheived, losing to Mexico in the group stage, before suffering the ignominy of defeat to lowly Honduras, a team that had been scrambled together at the eleventh hour to replace Canada. Journeyman Saul Martinez was the hero, in his national team's most glorious evening.
I – Invitees
Since 1993, the Copa America has issued invitations to members of other continents. The United States and Mexico took part for the first time that year, with the latter finishing second to Argentina, and since then Honduras, Japan and Costa Rica have also been involved.
J – Julio Baptista's belter
The 2007 tournament gave the public the final they craved as Brazil and Argentina faced off. However, despite many expecting the likes of Lionel Messi and Juan Roman Riquelme to inspire their nation to victory, a rocket from Julio Baptista flew into the top corner to send the Selecao on their way to a convincing 3-0 victory.
K – Kings of the tournament
The Copa sees the stars of their respective nations aim to shine the brightest of all in order to achieve success. Names such as Valderrama, Francescoli, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, and Robinho have graced the event with some spectacular performances over the last two decades, and this year the face off is between Argentina's Ballon d'Or master Lionel Messi, and Brazil's rising young upstart Neymar - the victor of that particular tete-a-tete could decide the outcome of the title.
L – Lionel's lob of perfection
Lionel Messi often faces criticism for failing to transfer his emphatic club form onto the international platform, but one of his finest moments for Argentina came in the 2007 semi-final against Mexico. Finding space on the right flank, he took a touch before deftly chipping the ball over the head of the advancing Oswaldo Sanchez.
M – Maradona magic humbles Ecuador
El Diego is more synonymous with the World Cup than the Copa, but has still produced some spellbinding performances throughout his career. None more so than in the Estadio Monumental in 1987 when his two goals - the latter a glorious swerving free kick - demolished Ecuador, who simply couldn't handle him.
N – Neither
Referring to the two most famous footballers in history, Diego Maradona and Pele, neither of whom were able to lift the Copa America during their glittering careers.
O – Oldest competition
The Copa America is the longest-running continental competition in history, dating back to 1916, when Uruguay triumphed in the inaugural event in Argentina. The tournament will celebrate its 43rd installment this year, and pre-dates the World Cup by 14 years.
P – Pele nets record haul
Brazilian football's greatest-ever player, the sensational attacker netted eight goals in six matches in 1959, when the event was still branded as the South American championship. That total remains a record haul in a single tournament.
Q – Quake and Japan's withdrawal
The devastating natural disaster that struck Japan in March 2011 meant that after the country had come to terms with the rebuilding process, they had to decide whether to send their national side to take part in the Copa America. After much deliberation, the shift of rescheduled J-League fixtures to the end of June would have jeoparsied the Blue Samurai's preparations, and the Asian country opted to drop out of the event.
R – Remodelling, revision & upheaval
Much like the World Cup, the Copa America has undergone numerous changes to its format across its 95-year history. Held regularly on an almost yearly basis until 1946, three more editions ended what was known as the South American championship, with an eight-year hiatus before the Copa America – as it is now known – was formed. From 1987 the event continued on a two-year rotation until 2004, and now runs every four years, from 2007. The addition of invited teams and the alphabetical variation of host nations have also been introduced in recent times.
S – Selecao dominance
Argentina and Uruguay hold the record for most Copa America victories with 14 triumphs a piece, but the last decade has definitely belonged to Brazil. The famous footballing nation have collected the title in four out of the last five competitions stretching back to 1999, with Colombia's 2001 win their only blemish in a hugely successful era.
T – Terrorism
Security fears plagued the 2001 incarnation hosted in Colombia. The organising committee insisted that the fixtures go ahead - but Argentina were not amused, withdrawing shortly before the opening match. Canada soon followed. Costa Rica and Honduras were drafted in as last-minute alternatives, with the latter stepping off their flight just hours before their first clash.
U – Uruguay's glory days
In the first decade of the competition, Uruguay were the team to beat, winning six out of the first 10 championships, en route to their total of 14. Notably, they have never failed to win the tournament when they have been involved as hosts.
V – Valderrama and Redin denied by Chile
Despite modest expectations heading into the 1987 edition, Colombia emerged as favourites thanks to glorious wins over Bolivia and Paraguay and were most notable for the stylistic play of Bernardo Redin and frizzed legend Carlos Valderrama. After netting against Chile in extra-time in the last four they appeared on track for glory, but haphazard shot-stopper Rene Higuita conceded two late goals and Colombia crashed out.
W – World Cup & Copa double
Brazil became the first team in history to hold both the World Cup and Copa America titles at the same time after their 1997 triumph in Bolivia. The hosts were defeated 3-0 in the final after Peru had been dispatched 7-0 in the last four, and the samba stars solidified their position as the best team not only in South America but in the world.
X – X marks the spot
This year's showpiece in Argentina represents a homecoming. Not only will the joint-most successful nation host the tournament for the first time since 1987, but it represents a return to where the first gathering of South American sides took place all the way back in 1916, when Uruguay overcame the Albicelestes in Avellaneda.
Y – You missed again?
Tournaments are all about record-breaking achievements - good and bad. For Martin Palermo, the 1999 Copa America fixture gave him the unwanted Guinness World Record of being the only man to have missed three spot-kicks in the same match, against Colombia. His first effort canoned back from the crossbar, his second blazed over, and the third – as his team-mates hid their gaze – was palmed to safety by Miguel Calero. Argentina lost 3-0.
Z – Zizinho and Mendez's prolific exploits
Brazilian playmaker Zizinho holds, along with Argentine Norberto Mendez, the record for most total goals in Copa America competition, with each player boasting an impressive 17 strikes. Both players were stars of the '40s and '50s, with Mendez assisting in Argentina's three consecutive titles from 1945-1947, while Zizinho took part in Brazil's 1949 win.