Copa America 2019: Can dark horses Uruguay go all the way?

Andy West 14/06/2019
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At one end of the field, Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez…a pair of tough and uncompromising central defenders who come with the additional benefit of playing nearly 200 club games together for Atletico Madrid.

At the other end, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani…two of the game’s most prolific strikers, whose silk and steel blend provides a perfect partnership capable of overcoming any defence.

Make no mistake: Uruguay are very, very dangerous as they head to Brazil for the latest edition of Copa America.

Brazil, of course, should be regarded as favourites to lift the trophy on home soil, as they aim to end their 12-year wait for a major trophy since last winning Copa America in 2007.

Even taking into account the absence of luckless iconic leader Neymar, who must be wondering if he will ever have the chance to complete a major international tournament without being dogged by injury, the hosts still look the strongest all-round team on paper.

But Brazil are far from infallible. On an individual level, Philippe Coutinho could be traumatised by a terrible season with Barcelona and consequent uncertainty over his future, Gabriel Jesus had no more than a moderate season with Manchester City and Roberto Firmino is lacking match sharpness after finishing Liverpool’s gruelling season hampered by injury.

Collectively, there are more question marks hanging over Tite’s squad: can they overcome the defensive frailty which destroyed last summer’s World Cup campaign against Belgium? Will the pressure of performing in front of feverish home crowds prove too much, as it did in 2014? And, of course, how will the team react to the loss of Neymar?

If the hosts do slip up, Uruguay – continental champions in 2011 and World Cup quarter-finalists a year ago – are probably best placed to take advantage.

They certainly appear to have the greatest depth in the goalscoring department, with Suarez and Cavani (102 international goals combined) backed up by rising star Maxi Gomez and gnarly veteran Cristhian Stuani, both of whom enjoyed excellent seasons with lowly teams in La Liga: Gomez scored 13 for Celta Vigo, while Stuani netted 19 for relegated Girona.

The organisational skills of Godin and tenacity of Gimenez in the centre of defence will ensure that Uruguay are as tough to break down as they were 12 months ago in Russia, when they advanced into the World Cup knockout rounds by keeping three consecutive clean sheets in the group stage.

The big difference from last season’s side, however, lies in a midfield which could be manned by two exciting young players who enjoyed breakthrough campaigns with major European teams: Arsenal’s Lucas Torreira and Fede Valverde of Real Madrid.

Torreira did feature in last summer’s World Cup, starting both knockout games against Portugal and France, but the experience he gained this season with Arsenal – starting 24 Premier League games – have made him into a more rounded and confident performance, ready to grab a more prominent role at international level.

Valverde, meanwhile, is a complete novice in tournament play, having been named in the provisional 26-man squad for Russia last summer but failing to make the final cut.

The 20 year-old was one of very few bright spots in a hugely disappointing campaign for Real Madrid, doing enough in his 16 league outings – despite most of them coming from the bench – to leap ahead of Marcos Llorente in the pecking order and earn the favour of Zinedine Zidane, who started Valverde in five of the team’s last eight games.

With Torreira’s defensive aptitude and Valverde’s tireless running and daring creativity, they could prove to be a perfect combination in midfield, adding a new dimension to a Uruguay team which has been solid but rather predictable over the last few years.

Veteran boss Oscar Tabarez may start with one or both on the bench, with Matias Vecino offering far more experience and another talented youngster, Rodrigo Bentancur of Juventus, also available.

But Torreira and Valverde are the future, and if Tabarez dares to allow them to become the present it could add a new dimension to his team…and maybe even make them Copa America champions.

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France coach Corinne Diacre discusses Women's World Cup hopes for hosts

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France coach Corinne Diacre insists the hosts remain outsiders to lift the Women’s World Cup after a narrow win over Norway in Nice.

Eugenie Le Sommer tucked away the deciding spot-kick to secure a 2-1 victory after referee Bibiana Steinhaus watched a replay of Ingrid Engen’s challenge on Marion Torrent before giving the penalty.

The incident certainly spared the blushes of France defender Wendie Renard, whose calamitous own goal had earlier gifted Norway an equaliser following Valerie Gauvin’s opening strike.

France now have two wins from two after beating South Korea 4-0 and are close to securing their place in the last 16.

But Diacre feels there is a way to go until they can be considered among the favourites.

“We knew this evening was going to be a different kind of game than the one we played last Friday,” she said at her post-match press conference.

“We knew we weren’t going to be winning 4-0 and wanted to show a lot of respect. We did what we had to do. We’re still outsiders for the tournament.

“We saw a difficult game and it’s all about the fine details. Little by little, along the way: that’s when you become the favourite.”

Norway can still make it through in second place if they can beat South Korea in Reims on Monday.

Coach Martin Sjogren was happy with their display against France and felt a draw would have been a fair outcome.

“We lost the match but I thought we were equal with the French,” he said.

“Of course, there are many feelings after the match. Sometimes you can handle these feelings and sometimes not.

“We knew that we were going to face a very good opponent and we had a good plan I think. We conducted the plan in a very good way.

“I wasn’t surprised by the French team – we knew they were going to be athletic with fast players and speed – but we played well and I’m very proud of how my players performed out there. In my book, I think we deserved a 1-1.”

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Watch Lionel Messi and Paulo Dybala in Argentina training ahead of Copa America opener

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Argentina’s pursuit for the Copa America trophy resumes on Saturday as they take the first step towards claiming the trophy following successive runners-up medals.

The team trained on Wednesday ahead of their first competitive appearance following the 4-3 defeat to France in the World Cup quarter-final last year.

Argentina face Colombia, Paraguay and Qatar in Group B of the tournament.

Their first game against Colombia will take place on Saturday at the Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador.


Argentina have not lost against the ‘Cafeteros’ since 2007 winning four out of eight official matches.








Lionel Scaloni’s team have won 14th Copa America titles, however their last triumph came in 1993.


La Albiceleste have named a young, fresh squad for the tournament after a disappointing World Cup campaign. The first real indicator of Scaloni’s rebuilding of the team will be available on Saturday.



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