SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chile’s euphoria at reaching the final of the Copa America was tempered on Tuesday by the reminder that every time they have been in this position before they have finished as runners-up.
“We’ve got to the final, which is a big achievement, but we still haven’t won anything yet,” playmaker Jorge Valdivia said, repeating a phrase which the Chileans have used time and again during this tournament.
On the basis of history, they are right to be cautious.
They have finished as runners-up at four Copa Americas and have yet to win the trophy despite 36 attempts.
Their first disappointment came on home soil in 1955 when the Copa was played in a league format, with all six teams playing each other once.
Chile and Argentina went in to the final match level on points but, in front of 65,000 stunned fans in Santiago’s national stadium, Argentina won 1-0 to claim the trophy.
A year later, the Copa was staged in Uruguay and the Chileans again finished in second place, behind the hosts.
By 1979, the tournament’s format had changed and this time there was a final. Chile reached it only to be beaten by Paraguay.
Eight years later the Chileans were back but lost 1-0 to Uruguay in the final in Buenos Aires.
They have also finished third at the Copa on five occasions and in fourth place a record 10 times.
“Chile have always had successful players - Sergio Livingstone, Leonel Sanchez, Elias Figueroa, Carlos Caszely, Marcelo Salas - they were all great players,” said former striker Ivan Zamorano, who was in the squad for that last final 28 years ago.
“But I’ve never seen so many players of this quality, all being successful abroad,” he told a local radio station after Chile’s 2-1 semi-final victory over Peru on Monday.
“I think they deserve to win something as the greatest generation that Chilean football has ever had.”
Chile will face either Argentina or Paraguay in Saturday’s final.
Writing by Gideon Long; Editing by Greg Stutchbury