Where Are They Now? returns with a Copa America special looking at the winners of the tournament of twenty years ago. Held in Uruguay, the host nation won their 14th of 15 titles with a penalties triumph over Brazil…
1. Fernando Alvez (Goalkeeper, CA River Plate)
The vastly experienced Alvez had already been a member of countless Copa America squads and went to two World Cup finals pre-tournament. A hero of domestic giants Penarol, Alvez was playing for River Plate of Montevideo at the time of the Copa America and would continue on playing for his country until he was 37 two years later. Alvez finished his international career in 1997 with 40 caps spread over seventeen years. Post tournament, he would leave River Plate to be the back-up at Argentine giants San Lorenzo before returning to Penarol for one final swansong before his retirement in 1997.
2. Oscar Aguirregaray (Defender, Penarol)
Here’s an interesting piece of trivia for you – Oscar Aguirregaray won two Copa Americas with Uruguay (1987 and 1995) but only made his international debut in 1995 before the tournament. Interesting fact aside, Aguirregaray would go on to play 10 games for his country until 1997 but continued playing for Penarol until he was 42 years old before retiring. He would have a short lived spell in charge of River Plate of Montevideo with team mate Pablo Bengoechea (see below) in 2006.
3. Eber Moas (Defender, America de Cali)
Defender Moas, of Colombian side America, had been a regular in Uruguayan squads since 1988 when he made his debut at 19. He would go on to play 48 times for his country with his final appearance in 1997. He didn’t spend much longer in Colombia as he left for Monterrey of Mexico in 1996 where he managed 83 league appearances. A return to Uruguay in 1998 saw him see out his career at Danubio where he retired in 2002. Moas returned with Racing Montevideo in 2005 and Rentistas in 2007 before retiring completely.
4. Jose Oscar Herrera (Defender, Cagliari)
One of only four players in the squad to be playing their club football outside of South America, Herrera was a veteran of nearly 150 league games with Cagliari in Italy and score in the final shoot-out against Brazil. Post- tournament, he would leave the club to join Atalanta for 18 months before moving to Cruz Azul of Mexico. His Mexican adventure ended quickly and after a short, uneventful stop at Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, he made his return to Penarol where he made his name in 1998. It was short and he left for spells with Racing Montevideo, Montevideo Wanderers (twice), Penarol again as well as Shangdong Luneng and Bandung of China before he ended his career with Penarol in 2003. Herrera’s international career ended in 1997 with 56 caps and 4 goals amassed over 9 years.
5. Alvaro Gutierrez (Midfielder, Nacional)
A member of Bella Vista’s historic (and only) Uruguayan league title side in 1990, Gutierrez’s performances in the tournament (including scoring his penalty in the final shoot-out) would alert the attention of Spanish side Real Valladolid who signed him from Nacional not long after the tournament. He spent three years with Valladolid before leaving for a short spell with Rayo Vallecano before he returned to his first club Bella Vista in 1999. Short spells with Liverpool of Uruguay and Sporting Gijon followed before Gutierrez retired in 2001. Gutierrez played internationally until 1997, winning 38 caps for his country in the process. He is currently the manager of Nacional having taken the role in 2014.
6. Edgardo Adinolfi (Defender, CA River Plate)
Full back Adinolfi impressed in the Copa America and scored the opener in the semi final against Colombia (which proved to be his only international goal as well), earning him a move from Uruguayan side River Plate to Israeli side Maccabi Haifa. He only spent a season in Israel before returning to Uruguay with Penarol in 1996. He was never a regular for Penarol and was moved on in 1999 to Gimnasia de la Plata in Argentina. Again Adinolfi was never a regular and upon leaving Gimnasia in 2001, found himself on a small tour of South America and Europe as he had short spells with Newell’s Old Boys (twice) and Tiro Federal of Argentina; Defensor Sporting and Fenix in his homeland; PAOK of Greece and Pontevedra of Spain before ending his career at Olympiakos Nicosia in Cyprus in 2007. Adinolfi only played for Uruguay until 1997, earning 18 caps and scoring that solitary goal against Colombia.
7. Marcelo Otero (Striker, Penarol)
Uruguay’s top scorer at the Copa America with 3 goals, Otero was another whose performances earned him a move to Europe as joined Italian side Vicenza. His time in Italy was very successful as Otero’s goals helped Vicenza win the Coppa Italia in 1997 and won the striker a move to Spanish side Sevilla in 1999. His time in Seville was a disaster as he scored just two league goals in two seasons before being sent to Colon in Argentina before he finished his career at Fenix in 2003. Otero would play for the national team until 2000, earning 25 caps and scoring 10 times.
8. Pablo Bengoechea (Midfielder, Penarol)
The captain of the side and veteran of the 1987 Copa America victory, Bengoechea had spent much of the late 1980s in Spain with Sevilla and had scored in the final of the 1987 triumph. He repeated that feat against Brazil in the final of the 1995 tournament and scored in the shoot-out to help Uruguay win the tournament. Bengoechea was at Penarol where he was one of the keys to 7 league titles in his spell there including five in a row between 1993 and 1997 and is rightly regarded as a club legend. A consumate pro, Bengoechea retired in 2003 at 38 with Penarol. Bengoechea finished his international career in 1997 with 43 caps, scoring six goals and winning two Copa Americas. He moved into coaching, assisting Sergio Markarian at numerous sides including Cruz Azul of Mexico and Universidad de Chile. His first managerial role was a short stint in charge of the Peru national side in 2014 before he was recently appointed to his current role of manager of Penarol.
9. Daniel Fonseca (Striker, Roma)
Another of the few who played in Europe, Fonseca was often played out of position in Serie A but found the net on a reasonably consistent basis. Fonseca’s record at international level was decent as well as he scored 11 in 30 appearances for Uruguay up until 1997. Fonseca would play irregularly for Roma but he impressed enough to be signed by Juventus in 1997 where he was often used as an impact sub rather that starter. He helped the Turin side to the Serie A title in 1998 and Champions League final before being allowed to leave in 2000. He moved to Argentine giants River Plate where he played once in pre-season before resigning and returning to his first club in Uruguay Nacional whom he helped win the title in 2002. A brief return to Serie A with Como in the 2002/03 season was unsuccessful and he retired in 2003.
10. Enzo Francescoli (Midfielder, River Plate)
A true legend of Uruguayan football and idol of Zinedine Zidane, Francescoli was a technically wonderful playmaker who scored twice and was named player of the tournament. Following the tournament, Francescoli would continue to be at his imperious best for River Plate, helping the club to three more league titles as well as the Copa Libertadores and South American Super Cup. He would annouce his retirement in 1997 and his final two professional games saw him secure two trophies. Francescoli would continue playing internationally until 1997 and finished with 73 caps and 17 goals. Francescoli would create a TV channel post-retirement (Gol TV) and occasionally will play in exhibition matches.
11. Gustavo Poyet (Midfielder, Real Zaragoza)
Named in team of the tournament, Poyet was a fixture in Spain for Real Zaragoza. However, with his deal running down in 1997, he deccided to move to England and signed for Chelsea. He would struggle with injury to begin with but established himself as a goalscoring midfielder and helped Chelsea win the FA Cup, Charity Shield, European Cup Winners’ Cup and European Super Cup. He was allowed to join London rivals Tottenham in 2001 where, despite injuries, he again proved himself to be an effective goal threat from midfield. Poyet retired from playing in 2004. He moved into coaching as an assistant at Swindon, Leeds and Tottenham before he was eventually appointed manager of Brighton in 2009 and guided the team to the League One title and the Championship play-offs in three and a half seasons. He was sacked after the play-off semi finals for reportedly telling the players he could do no more with Brighton. Poyet was appointed Sunderland boss in October of 2013 and kept the club up that season but struggled after the summer and was sacked recently. Internationally, Poyet kept playing for Uruguay until 2000 and finished with 26 caps and three goals.
12. Claudio Arbiza (Goalkeeper, Olimpia)
An unused back-up at the tournament, Arbiza would only play internationally for one more year and finished with six caps in total. He helped Olimpia to that year’s Paraguayan title before leaving to join Chilean giants Colo Colo in 1996. With the club he was a key man as Colo Colo won three consecutive league titles from 1996 to 1998. He stayed in Chile until 2000 and he returned to Uruguay to play for Nacional at the turn of 2001. With Nacional he won two more league titles before retiring from playing in 2004.
13. Ruben da Silva (Striker, Boca Juniors)
A regular scorer at club level, da Silva would actually leave Boca right after the tournament to join another Argentine side, Rosario Central. He was a key man as Rosario won the Copa CONMEBOL (essentially a short-lived South American Europa League) and would win another top scorer award. He left Argentina in 1998 to join Mexican side Tecos where he again scored on a reasonably regular basis. He returned to Uruguay, first with Nacional in 2000 (where he won a league title) before joining his first club Danubio in 2001. With Danubio he won another league title right before he retired in 2004. Internationally, da Silva would play until 2000 and would end up with 22 caps and three goals.
14. Gustavo Mendez (Defender, Nacional)
Full back Mendez would not remain much longer at Nacional as he left after the tournament to join Italian side Vicenza. He was a regular as Vicenza won the Coppa Italia in 1997 and played over 100 times for the club. He left in 1999 to join Torino but found games hard to come by and left at the turn of 2002 to return to Nacional. He was a regular for Nacional until his retirement in 2005. Mendez would continue to play for Uruguay until 2002 and represented them at the World Cup that year. He finished with 46 caps in total.
15. Marcelo Saralegui (Midfielder, Racing Club)
Midfielder Saralegui would leave Racing after the tournament to join fellow Argentine side Colon where he got regular football and did well. He would leave Colon in 1999 but struggled to find regular game time with short spells at Independiente, Racing (again), first club Nacional (where he won the Uruguayan title again), Fenix and Uruguay Montevideo before retiring in 2004. Saralegui would play internationally until 1997 and would end up with 33 caps, scoring six goals.
16. Diego Lopez (Defender, CA River Plate)
One of the youngest members of the squad at 20, Lopez had just made the breakthrough at River Plate of Montevideo. Lopez would move to Europe in 1996, joining Spanish side Racing Santander. He was a regular in Spain but struggled with cards and was sold to Italian side Cagliari in 1998. It was at Cagliari where Lopez blossomed as he became a rock at the back for the club and was appointed club captain . He played nearly 400 times for Cagliari before retiring in 2010. Lopez won 32 caps for Uruguay, scoring once but was overlooked for the World Cup squads of 2002 and 2010. Lopez moved into coaching in 2012 as assistant at Cagliari before being promoted to boss in 2013. He lasted just less than a season as he was sacked but was appointed Bologna boss in 2014, a role he still holds.
17. Sergio Martinez (Striker, Boca Juniors)
A prolific scorer for Boca and scorer of the decisive penalty in the final shootout, Martinez would go on to finish as top scorer in Argentina in 1997. He is in the top ten at Boca for goals but left in 1998 to try his luck in Europe with Spanish side Deportivo. He played just three times before returning to Uruguay with Nacional. He was a bit part player as Nacional won consecutive league titles in 2000 and 2001. Martinez retired after the second title win. Martinez finished his international career with 35 caps and five goals.
18. Tabare Silva (Defender, Defensor Sporting)
The youngest member of the squad, Silva would help Defensor to one more title in 1997 before leaving for Spanish side Sevilla in 1998. He was a rotational player but never established himself in Spain and struggled in short stints with Levante and Elche. He returned to Uruguay in 2003 and had spells at Central Espanol, CA River Plate, Rampla Juniors, Villa Espanola and Sud America before retiring in 2009. Silva finished his international career with 19 caps for Uruguay. He moved into coaching and has had short stays as manager at Sud America, El Tanque Sisley, Defensor Sporting and Bolivian side Oriente Petrolero. He is currently manager of Ecuadorian side Deportivo Quito.
19. Nelson Abeijon (Midfielder, Nacional)
A tough midfielder loved by Nacional fans, Abeijon would stay with the club until 1997 when he left to join Spanish side Racing Santander. He never played regularly in Spain and, in 1998, followed compatriot Diego Lopez to Cagliari. Abeijon spent eight years with Cagliari and played over 150 games for the club as well as having a season loan at Como while there. He left in 2006 and retired in 2008 after short stints with Atalanta and CA River Plate. Internationally, Abeijon finished with 23 caps and two goals.
20. Ruben Sosa (Striker, Internazionale)
A goal scoring, tricky little striker, Sosa is undoubtedly a legend of Uruguayan football. He left Inter not long after the tournament to join German side Borussia Dortmund but struggled for game time despite winning the Bundesliga. He left after a season to join Spanish side Logrones for a short spell before fulfilling his dream of playing for Nacional in 1997. He helped Nacional win three league titles and also won the hearts of the fans in the process before he left in 2002 for a short spell with Shanghai Shenhua in China (where he won another league title). He returned to Nacional as assistant and played a little as they won the title once more before he finished his career at Racing Club of Montevideo in 2006. Sosa ended his international career with 19 goals in 46 appearances.
21. Diego Dorta (Midfielder, Penarol)
Penarol midfielder Dorta would leave the club not long after the tournament to join Argentine side Independiente. However, Dorta struggled in Argentina and in 1998 made his return to Penarol. Dorta saw out his playing career with Penarol. Internationally, Dorta won 23 caps with the last one coming in 1996.
22. Oscar Ferro (Goalkeeper, Penarol)
Third choice keeper Ferro would not add to his nine international caps after the tournament at all and would leave Penarol after the tournament to join Argentine side Ferrol. He was a regular for the club but left in 1998 and embarked on a number of short stints around South America including Sporting Cristal of Peru, Atletico Tucuman of Argentina, Guarani of Paraguay, Defensor Sporting of Uruguay as well as Spain’s Compostela. He finished his career with Penarol and retired after helping them win the 2003 league title. Currently, Ferro is Penarol’s goalkeeping coach.
The experienced Uruguayan guided his country to glory and would remain in the job for two more years. He left after the 1997 Copa America and stayed away from football for a good while. He returned in 2001 for a short spell at Saudi club Al-Nasr but it barely lasted. He had another short spell in management with Uruguayan side Tacuarembo in 2007 but that again did not last long. Hector Nunez passed away on 20 December 2011 at the age of 75.
That concludes another edition of Where Are They Now?. Stay tuned for more from The Long Ball coming soon.