Uruguay are one of the great conundrums of the Copa America Centenario. When at their healthiest, they have one of the best attacks in the world. When they find themselves without either Luis Suarez or Edinson Cavani, they struggle to create much of anything and are nothing more than an average team. At this summer’s Copa America Centenario, where they will be without Barcelona star Suarez for the Group Stage. However, with Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez in the backline, Uruguay boast one of the staunchest defenses in the Americas, which should be able to see them through a forgiving group.
Group C is the Group of Life
At every major tournament, there is a Group of Death and a Group of Life. At the Copa, the Group of Death is undoubtedly Group A, comprised of the United States of America, Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica. The Group of Life is just as easy to spot, and Uruguay are right in the middle of it. Mexico, Uruguay, Jamaica and Venezuela make up Group C, and all have some sort of hope of advancing on to the next round.
If Suarez was fit, then Uruguay would undoubtedly be the favorites to win this group. However, replacing the man who scored 59 goals in 53 games with Barcelona this season is far from easy. Luckily, they have another of Europe’s top forwards in their ranks in Edinson Cavani and have Abel Hernandez ready to deputize for Suarez. Yet, as already mentioned, the fact that the 15-time winners boast two rocks of Europe’s top defense will be crucial.
Rock solid defense
Though they will be joining up with their national team after the bitter disappointment of falling on penalties to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Final, if Godin and Gimenez can carry over their club form, the Celeste may have the best defense in the tournament.
Not only is their defense fantastic, but they enter in fantastic form as a team. After six matches, they sit at the top of CONMEBOL’s World Cup Qualifying table and have a brilliant chance to carry over that momentum. They last won the Copa America in 2011, and will be optimistic of adding to their haul if they manage to advance from their group and into the knockout stage.
It is, of course, far from ideal for Uruguay to cope without Suarez, who sustained a hamstring injury during Barcelona’s Copa del Rey Final victory over Sevilla. However, if they can get through to the following round, the potential boon from getting him back from injury could be enough to carry them forward.
Tough start in Group C
Just like the United States, Uruguay face their most difficult Group match right off the bat. They have the pleasure of playing Mexico, the only other team in the group which will see it as their right to move on to the next round, in a virtual home game for El Tri at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Mexico travel well throughout the United States, but playing in Arizona might as well be playing at the Azteca for them. Yet, Uruguay are no strangers to playing in hostile environments; going to Quito, Rio or Buenos Aires is no easy trip.
After that, they will travel to the other end of the country to play Venezuela in Philadelphia. If Mexico is the most difficult game in the Group, then Venezuela is the easiest. In six World Cup Qualifying matches, Venezuela have managed one solitary point from a 2-2 draw with Peru. They may be hoping for a decent showing from this tournament, but Uruguay will expect the full three points from this one.
The Celeste will expect to have somewhere between three and six points on the board when they play Jamaica at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Jamaica were impressive as invited guests at last summer’s Copa America and stunned the United States in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup before losing to Mexico in the Final.
Though the specter of Suarez’s absence still hangs over Uruguay, now all that is left to get ready to actually play football. They’ll get their chance to do that for the first time on Sunday, June 5th.
Final Uruguay roster
Martin Campana (Independiente), Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama)
Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Jorge Fucile (Nacional), Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Alvaro Pereira (Getafe), Maximiliano Pereira (Porto), Mauricio Victorino (Nacional)
Mathias Corujo (Universidad de Chile), Alvaro Gonzalez (Atlas), Nicolas Lodeiro (Boca Juniors), Gaston Ramirez (Middlesbrough), Egidio Arevalo Rios (Atlas), Cristian Rodriguez (Independiente), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Matias Vecino (Fiorentina)
Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain), Abel Hernandez (Hull City), Diego Rolan (Bordeaux), Cristhian Stuani (Middlesbrough), Luis Suarez (Barcelona)