Football Features

Where are they now? Chile’s first-ever Copa America winners

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 19:15, 10 April 2021

International firsts are always momentous occasions and it’s hard to think of many firsts more momentous than Chile’s inaugural Copa América win.

Chile have been entering the Copa América since its inception in 1916, yet for 99 years they couldn’t get a win. In fact they won nothing of any sort ever since they were founded in 1895. A long agonising trophy drought that came to a dramatic end in Santiago in July 2015.

It wasn’t just that the win ended an 120-wait for a trophy, it was that they won it in their capital, against the tournament favourites Argentina, a team who had just one year ago played a World Cup final, a team who had the best player in the world in their ranks. And Chile were managed at the time by Jorge Sampaoli, an Argentine and avowed Lionel Messi fan.

Chile’s winning side would, incredibly, go on to retain their crown a year later by beating Argentina again. But where are the men from that initial triumph? The men who broke Messi’s heart and became heroes for an entire nation.

Claudio Bravo

Age: 38
Position:
Goalkeeper
Chile caps: 123
Current club: Real Betis

The enigmatic Claudio Bravo was coming off a huge treble win with Barcelona back in 2015 and kept three clean sheets in five games going into the final, where he picked up his fourth as he held Argentina’s formidable strike force at bay. After a spell at Man City where he couldn’t save anything, he’s currently back in La Liga at Real Betis although his debut season has been hampered by injuries.

Mauricio Isla

Age: 32
Position:
Right wing-back
Chile caps: 115
Current club: Flamengo

The flying wing-back was the only legitimate defender played by Chile in the final and he was far more interested in thrusting up the right side of the pitch and played more as a wing-back. Back then he had just come off an unsuccessful loan spell at QPR but you would have never told. Nowadays he’s back in South America, playing right-back for Flamengo.

Francisco Silva

Age: 35
Position:
Defensive midfielder
Chile caps: 38
Current club: Universidad Católica

Francisco Silva was a defensive midfielder by trade but with Gonzalo Jara suspended he was drafted into the starting XI for the final as part of Sampaoli’s convoluted (but ultimately successful) plan to stop Messi. For the most part, he did his job, being undone by a Messi run and pass just once right at the end of normal time, before being spared by Gonzalo Higuain’s massive miss. These days he’s back in Chile at his first club Universidad Católica.

Gary Medel

Age: 33
Position:
Defensive midfielder
Chile caps: 126
Current club: Bologna

The tenacious pit bull played central defence all through the Copa América to fantastic effect, and in the final was a snarling presence to deny Argentina, including kicking Messi in the stomach “on accident”. Back then he had already “flopped” at Cardiff City and had moved on to Inter, where he had a semi-successful spell before moving to Besiktas. Nowadays he’s back in Italy playing for Bologna.

Jean Beausejour

Age: 36
Position:
Left wing-back
Chile caps: 107
Current club: Coquimbo Unido

The left winger turned left-back, Jean Beausejour is one of those rare players who performed better for their country than their clubs. Beausejour was mostly unspectacular at club level although he has taken part in four colossal cup upsets. First there was the 2011 League Cup final, where his Birmingham side beat Arsenal, then the 2013 FA Cup final, where his Wigan beat Manchester City, and finally these two Copa América wins over Argentina. Sadly, his cup upset heroics stopped there, but he’s currently back in Chile playing.

Marcelo Diaz

Age: 34
Position:
Defensive midfielder
Chile caps: 61
Current club: Racing Club

Diaz played a hybrid role back in 2015, operating both in midfield but also dropping between Silva and Medel to form a back three. He was the chief spoiler of the Chilean midfield but also had to keep the ball moving. Back then, he was then playing for Hamburg, who he helped save from relegation with a stunning free-kick in a play-off. After a couple of wandering seasons, he’s currently in Argentina.

Charles Aranguiz

Age: 31
Position:
Central midfielder
Chile caps: 79
Current club: Bayer Leverkusen

Aranguiz was at the peak of his powers back in 2015 and his breathless displays of energy and drive made Chile too hot to handle for Argentina in the middle of the park. He also scored in the shootout. That was the summer he sealed his move to Europe by joining Bayer Leverkusen, although over six weeks after this final he ruptured his Achilles tendon and missed 200 days of action. He’s still influential to this day and has assumed captaincy at the club, but he is definitely not quite as absurdly dynamic as he was pre-injury.

Arturo Vidal

Age: 33
Position:
Central midfielder
Chile caps: 119
Current club: Inter Milan

One of the most complete footballers to have ever existed, Vidal has played multiple positions throughout his career with Chile but in 2015 he was their superhero central-midfielder. Amid off-field controversy he was the beating heart of their Copa win. Had just lost a Champions League final with Juventus so joined Bayern Munich before settling in Barcelona. A phenomenal winner, 2019/20 was the first time since 2010/11 that he didn’t end a season as league champion but he looks on course to get straight back to winning ways with Inter Milan.

Jorge Valdivia

Age: 37
Position:
Attacking midfielder
Chile caps: 79
Current club: Union La Calera

A mesmeric playmaker whose inconsistency stopped him from becoming a generational great, Valdivia had a huge impact on the 2015 final. The playmaker is known for his passes, but he helped out tremendously in closing down Messi on the defensive end. He’s had a journeyman career and since 2015 has played for six clubs, his current one being La Calera in Chile.

Eduardo Vargas

Age: 31
Position:
Forward
Chile caps: 92
Current club: Atletico Mineiro

Another one of the “better for his country” brigade, Vargas had been playing with Isla in England and came into the tournament having just been relegated with QPR (on loan from Napoli). His brace in the semi-final against Peru was the high water-mark for the tournament for him (he finished as joint-top-scorer) while his final was uneventful. Since then, he had a season in the Bundesliga before spending three years at Tigres and finally joining current club Atletico Mineiro.

Alexis Sánchez

Age: 32
Position:
Forward
Chile caps: 133
Current club: Inter Milan

Chile’s best player at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups wanted to make a serious impression at a Copa América and although he was clearly exhausted after an entire season of playing for Arsenal, he gave it everything he had, scoring the cup-winning penalty with an audacious Panenka shot at the end of the shootout. The Chilean had three productive years with the Gunners (and half a bad year), one-and-a-half terrible ones with Manchester United. Currently, he is trying to rediscover himself in Italy with Inter.

Subs:

Mati Fernandez

Age: 34
Position:
Attacking midfielder
Chile caps: 74
Current club: Deportes La Serena

Mati Fernandez moved in and out of the Chile line-up depending on what was required and started the 2015 final on the bench, before coming in to chase Messi around some. “Matigol” as some call him was at Fiorentina in 2015 but has since moved around Europe. He’s currently back in his native Chile playing for La Serena.

Angelo Henriquez

Age: 26
Position:
Striker
Chile caps: 12
Current club: Universidad de Chile

The young wonderkid of the side, Henriquez was just 21 when the tournament took place and made a couple of appearances off the bench. That season he also left Manchester United where he had spent the previous years going out on loan. Initially he played for Dinamo Zagreb, but never settled anywhere and is currently back in his native Chile.

✕︎

Sign up to the Best Football Offers

A valid email is required.

Invalid e-mail.

Yes I am over 18.
Yes, I would like to receive email updates on exciting offers from squawka.com. For more info on how we and our partners process your data, see Privacy and Cookie Policies.
You need to confirm that you are over 18 and that you want to receive updates.

*By subscribing you are confirming that you are over 18 years of age.

*All emails include an unsubscribe link, where you can opt out any time. *Please see our privacy and cookies policy..

x

Newsletter error