Gregg Berhalter believes the United States were given the sort of physical test they can expect in World Cup qualifying by Uruguay on Tuesday.

USA failed to qualify from the CONCACAF section for Russia 2018 but are rebuilding under Berhalter ahead of the next cycle.

Days on from a humbling 3-0 defeat to rivals Mexico, USA held Uruguay to a 1-1 draw - equalising through Jordan Morris after Brian Rodriguez's opener - and Berhalter was impressed by his team's spirit.

The coach suggested the Uruguay match in St Louis, where the hosts bossed 60 per cent of possession, would ultimately prove more useful than the clash with Mexico.

"We just played two different teams with two very important challenges," Berhalter told a news conference.

"Against CONCACAF teams, we will play teams that are very compact [like Uruguay]. We have to understand how to break those teams down. Mexico were a totally different challenge.

"Mexico are a high-pressing, active team in front of a loud, boisterous crowd. Mexico presented us with good challenges but also good learning opportunities.

"We talked about how this opponent [Uruguay] were going to be compact and be physical. I think the team did a great job on set-pieces.

"More importantly, it was about the tenacity of our guys and the relentlessness of our guys to hang in there and keep battling. We did a good job, particularly in the first half, of keeping our structure."

Jordan Morris' second-half goal helped the United States to a 1-1 friendly draw against Uruguay in St Louis on Tuesday.

Coming off two straight losses, USA managed to avoid defeat as Morris cancelled out Brian Rodriguez's 50th-minute opener at Busch Stadium.

It was a fortunate equaliser for USA, who had squandered their best opportunities during the first half before falling behind.

Brian Rodriguez's first international goal had Uruguay – without the likes of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin – on track, but Morris levelled for Gregg Berhalter's men.

A beautiful team move led to Uruguay's first chance in the sixth minute, but Jonathan Rodriguez was just unable to get a shot off with only USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan to beat.

After Cristian Roldan headed straight at Fernando Muslera for USA, the hosts created a great chance midway through the first half.

Morris beat his marker down the left before crossing to Tyler Boyd, who put his shot into the ground and over the crossbar from close range.

A Tim Ream block denied Uruguay an opener moments later before Muslera pushed away a 25-yard effort from Sergino Dest six minutes prior to the break.

USA should have been awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time for a handball by Jose Gimenez, but they went into the interval locked at 0-0.

Brian Rodriguez broke the deadlock five minutes into the second half thanks to his first international goal.

A counter-attack saw Federico Valverde play a pass to Brian Rodriguez, who beat his marker before firing a power left-footed effort past Guzan from inside the area.

USA were fortunate to equalise with 11 minutes remaining, a clearance by Uruguay coming off Nick Lima and falling to Morris to chest in at the back post.

 

What does it mean? USA avoid three-game losing streak

Runners-up at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, USA were well beaten by Mexico last week and the draw with Uruguay at least meant they avoided being handed three straight losses for the first time since 2015.

Goalscoring woes go on for USA

USA must find a way to score goals and quickly. It took a huge piece of luck to get their equaliser against Uruguay and they have struggled to find the back of the net since thrashing Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago to begin the Gold Cup. Since those wins, USA have scored six goals in six games, netting more than once in a match just once in that run.

Uruguay show off depth

Without their two star forwards in Suarez and Cavani, Uruguay showed off some depth in the attacking third. Brian Rodriguez, 19, opened his international account and Jonathan Rodriguez was also dangerous.

What's next?

USA begin their CONCACAF Nations League campaign with matches against Cuba and Canada next month, while Uruguay will face Peru in two friendlies.

Jonathan Rodriguez scored a 90th-minute winner as Uruguay beat Costa Rica 2-1 in their international friendly on Friday.

Celso Borges thought he had earned a draw for Costa Rica in the 48th minute after cancelling out Giorgian De Arrascaeta's first-half penalty in San Jose.

However, Rodriguez came off the bench and netted a last-gasp winner for visiting Uruguay – who were playing in the absence of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani – at Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica.

There was a new face in the dugout for Costa Rica following Gustavo Matosas' shock resignation due to boredom.

After less than a year in the job, Argentine-born Uruguayan Matosas told a news conference on Wednesday: "I didn't know being a national team manager was so boring. I don't regret it and I don't leave frustrated because I gave my best. I won't manage a national team again. I can't only have the players every two months. It's not for me."

It was initially thought Matosas would take charge of Friday's friendly, however, interim boss Douglas Sequeira oversaw proceedings.

Borges' stunning free-kick three minutes into the second half gave Costa Rica something to celebrate after De Arrascaeta had converted a penalty three minutes prior to the interval.

However, Sequeira watched Costa Rica crash to their third consecutive defeat following Rodriguez's powerful low strike at the death.

Former Uruguay and Manchester United forward Diego Forlan has announced his retirement from professional football.

Forlan, 40, last played for Kitchee in Hong Kong, with his final appearance coming in May last year.

The forward, who also played for the likes of Inter and Atletico Madrid during a fine career in Europe, confirmed his retirement on Tuesday.

"It hasn't been easy, I didn't want the time to come, but I knew it was going to come," Forlan told Telemundo.

"I have decided to stop playing football professionally."

Forlan started his professional career with Independiente in Argentina before earning a £6.9million move to Manchester United in January 2002.

He won the Premier League with United in 2002-03 and the FA Cup the following season before joining Villarreal in 2004.

Forlan enjoyed a prolific spell in LaLiga, scoring 128 goals in 240 league games for Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, while also helping the latter clinch the Europa League in 2009-10.

After a brief spell at Inter, he played for Internacional, Cerezo Osaka, Penarol, Mumbai City and Kitchee before calling time on his career.

Forlan will also be remembered as one of Uruguay's greatest players, having scored 36 goals in 112 appearances for his nation, who won the Copa America in 2011, while he claimed the Golden Ball at the 2010 World Cup as his country finished fourth.

Luis Suarez, Forlan's former international team-mate, paid tribute to the forward.

"Historic for Uruguayan football. Grateful for all the unforgettable moments you made all Uruguayans live, both in the national team and in all the teams you played," the Barcelona star wrote on Twitter.

"I will always be grateful for what you taught me, both on and off the field, a dream to have played with one of my idols. You will always be a legend in Uruguay. A lot of success in your new challenges, friend."

Neymar offered Luis Suarez support after the Uruguay star missed a penalty in a shoot-out loss to Peru in the Copa America quarter-finals.

Suarez was the only player to miss in the shoot-out as Peru advanced 5-4 after a 0-0 draw in Salvador on Saturday.

The Barcelona forward was in tears after the defeat as Uruguay – unbeaten in the group stage – bowed out.

Suarez's former club team-mate Neymar, who is linked with a return to Barcelona from Paris Saint-Germain, offered the Uruguayan support.

"Get up," the injured Brazil forward wrote on his Instagram story, alongside a video of Suarez crying.

"You are very great, brother. I love you friend."

Neymar is widely reported to be returning to Barcelona ahead of next season, two years after leaving the LaLiga champions.

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez offered no excuses after his side slumped out of the Copa America with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out defeat to Peru.

Luis Suarez's miss with Uruguay's opening spot-kick proved costly in Salvador, with Peru converting all of their penalties to book their place in the last four.

Edinson Cavani had been guilty of a dreadful miss in open play midway through the first half, while Diego Godin passed up a similar chance after the interval as the match ended goalless in normal time.

Uruguay also had three goals ruled out for offside, though Tabarez did not look to blame the officials, instead accepting his side failed to impose themselves on the match, despite Peru failing to register a single shot on target in normal time.

"The result caused us a great disappointment, but we must accept it," Tabarez told a news conference.

"We came with the idea of winning, we tried to impose our game and could not. You have to know how to lose.

"We failed in one aspect, the offsides. We committed seven offsides, three of them ended in a goal. 

"There is no excuse. I do not come here to justify anything. We could not win, we misjudged. The opponent came with a plan and it was not possible to win. 

"I see it from that point of view. There are no teams that always win and there are no teams that always lose. We are going to continue on this path, learning from this defeat to keep growing."

Peru will face defending champions Chile on Wednesday, with Brazil and Argentina meeting in the other semi-final a day earlier.

Luis Suarez missed his spot-kick as Uruguay suffered a 5-4 penalty shoot-out defeat to Peru in the Copa America quarter-finals following a 0-0 draw in Salvador.

Edinson Cavani squandered a glorious chance midway through the first half, while Diego Godin was guilty of similar profligacy after the interval as Peru hardly tested their opponents at the other end.

Uruguay, who also had a goal disallowed in the first half, twice fell foul of tight offside decisions after Godin's miss – both Cavani and Suarez denied by the flag and subsequent VAR checks.

And Uruguay's poor fortune continued in the shoot-out – Pedro Gallese making a fantastic save from Suarez's opening penalty, with Edison Flores later stepping up to clinch Peru's place in the last four, where defending champions Chile await.

Lucas Torreira will be fit to face Peru in a boost to Uruguay's hopes of winning Saturday's Copa America quarter-final.

The tenacious Arsenal midfielder has re-joined his team-mates in training in El Salvador following an illness that involved vomiting and weight loss.

Torreira, 23, played no part in the 1-0 win over Chile as Uruguay finished top of Group C on seven points.

Edinson Cavani's late goal secured a crucial three points and the 2011 champions remain unbeaten following a 4-0 crushing of Ecuador and 2-2 draw against Japan.

"I've been able to train normally with part of the team and I'm feeling better," Torreira said ahead of the weekend encounter at Arena Fonte Nova.

"[I spent] two days in bed with a fever, headache, vomiting. I'm recovering.

"I lost almost three kilos and there were difficult days, but I feel better and I think that by Saturday I will be prepared for the game."

Torreira's return to fitness replenishes the midfield stocks damaged by Matias Vecino's forced withdrawal from the tournament due to a hamstring injury.

Rodrigo Bentancur and Real Madrid's Federico Valverde could continue their partnership, while the presence of Nahitan Nandez gives Oscar Tabarez plenty of options for what could be a tricky encounter with a team that has plenty to prove.

Peru attracted plaudits for winning through to last year's World Cup and collected four points from their opening two Copa America matches.

But all momentum was lost in a humiliating 5-0 defeat to Brazil and local reports have hinted head coach Ricardo Gareca could face a fight to keep his job if the Blanquirroja are bundled out before the final four.

"After a result of this nature you have to rethink many things," Gareca said after the humbling last outing.

With the spotlight firmly fixed on Peru, more resilience is a must.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uruguay - Rodrigo Bentancur

Though blessed with a fine attacking partnership in Cavani and Luis Suarez, Uruguay have not been so fortunate in terms of fitness issues in the heart of midfield. Juventus playmaker Bentancur was the constant across the group stage and brings a good measure of calm to Tabarez's team.

Peru - Paolo Guerrero

Jefferson Farfan's premature departure from the tournament due to a knee issue has increased the level of output needed from Peru's other forwards. Guerrero has the broad shoulders and ability to carry the burden.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Uruguay have beaten Peru in only one of their past five Copa America meetings (D2 L2), but it was in the most recent clash - a 2-0 triumph in the 2011 semi-finals.
- Peru defeated Uruguay the only other time they have faced each other in Brazil, 4-3 in the Copa America in 1949.
- Peru's loss to Brazil was their first in eight Copa America matches.
- Uruguay kept a clean sheet in two Copa America group games for the first time since 2007.

Chile coach Reinaldo Rueda played down the significance of his Colombian heritage with the teams set to meet in the Copa America quarter-finals.

Defending champions Chile missed out on top spot in Group C following a 1-0 loss to Uruguay at the Maracana on Monday, Edinson Cavani's brilliant header eight minutes from time sending Oscar Tabarez's side through as pool winners.

La Roja will next play Colombia – who won all three of their matches in a group that also contained Argentina, Paraguay and Qatar – at Arena Corinthians on Friday.

Despite having previously coached Colombia and four clubs in his home nation, Rueda does not think his presence in the Chile dugout will give them the upper hand.

"In football there are no mysteries or secrets anymore. With information technology and evaluation programmes, not much can be hidden," said Rueda.

"It is a question of two very competitive teams, two elite squads of a good level, perhaps experiencing very different moments.

"Colombia is coming off a World Cup, Chile failed to qualify, but there is this internal challenge for each of the Chileans to take advantage of this competition to demonstrate that they continue to retain a status as winners.

"[Colombia] are showing they are a very mature team that has played good games – even with the rotation of players in their last game. They had a good World Cup and have players that play in major leagues."

Rueda switched to a back three for the meeting with Uruguay and rested Arturo Vidal, Mauricio Isla and Jean Beausejour, each of whom were a booking away from being suspended for the quarter-finals.

"We would have exposed them too much ahead of such an important game in the next stage," explained Rueda.

Vidal supported the decision of the coach and plans to make the most of the rest with a strong performance against Colombia.

"I always like to play, but you have to respect decisions. The coach knows how to handle these moments and I did not want to miss the quarter-finals, so it's better to rest and train in the best way for Friday," said Vidal.

"We were not hurt by the defeat [to Uruguay]. We were already through. We always want to win, but sometimes we have to come second."

Oscar Tabarez branded Edinson Cavani a "scoring expert" after his superb goal gave Uruguay a 1-0 victory over Chile and sealed top spot in Copa America Group C.

Cavani showed tremendous instincts to flick Jonathan Rodriguez's delivery past Gabriel Arias with his head in the 82nd minute at the Maracana on Monday, booking a quarter-final meeting with Peru.

Although Tabarez acknowledged the Paris Saint-Germain striker produced a far from exemplary display, he felt his goal was one that only a select few players could have scored.

"That's the way Cavani is. He made a few mistakes, but he never gave up. He did three different roles during the match, but he never lost his main feature. He is a goalscorer," said the Uruguay boss.

"It was a good cross, but the ball did not have a lot of pace on it and he had to steer it with the right force.

"Not just anyone can do it, only the scoring experts. I think he's one of those."

Cavani insisted he had not viewed the match as a chance to gain revenge for Uruguay's defeat to Chile in the quarter-finals in 2015, a match in which he was sent-off.

The striker was shown a second yellow card in the 63rd minute following a bizarre altercation with Gonzalo Jara and La Roja went on to triumph 1-0 through Mauricio Isla.

"For me, all goals mean the same thing. Scoring a goal with this shirt is the most beautiful thing a footballer can experience. The win helped us qualify first," said Cavani.

"I do not see anything as revenge. Games go and then others come. We are happy for what we are experiencing here."

Edinson Cavani scored a late winner as Uruguay snatched top spot from two-time reigning Copa America champions Chile in Group C with a 1-0 victory at the Maracana.

Chile were on track to progress to the quarter-finals as group winners with the match petering out for a draw until Cavani glanced a header past Gabriel Arias eight minutes from the end in Rio de Janeiro.

Cavani's header on Monday saw Uruguay leapfrog Chile and earn a quarter-final clash against Peru, with La Roja set to meet Colombia in the last eight.

Playing in front of a sea of red in Rio, Chile enjoyed more of the possession in the lively opening 45 minutes as Charles Aranguiz and Alexis Sanchez forced Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera into diving saves.

Uruguay – the first nation to play 200 Copa America matches – managed to get in behind Chile's defence via Luis Suarez, who rounded Arias, but he was forced to an acute angle and eventually closed down.

Martin Caceres then volleyed just wide of the post from a corner two minutes before half-time – set-pieces continuing to be Uruguay's most threatening option.

Oscar Tabarez – who became the first ever head coach to reach 200 games in charge of the same nation – and his counterpart made changes but both Uruguay and Chile looked disjointed in the second period.

Uruguay and Chile lacked creativity and penetration but there was no shortage of physicality, though Jose Gimenez cleared Paulo Diaz's goal-bound header off the line to deny La Roja with 20 minutes remaining.

And against the run of play, Uruguay stunned Chile as Cavani popped up and directed a Jonathan Rodriguez cross into the net in the 82nd minute.

 

What does it mean? Chile's task made difficult

La Roja only needed a point from their final group fixture to win the group but Cavani and Uruguay had other ideas. The result means Chile will now come up against Colombia, who posted a 100 per cent record in Group B, in their bid for a third successive title. Uruguay, meanwhile, face a Peru side that were routed 5-0 by Brazil.

Cavani steps up

Uruguay needed a hero in front of a pro-Chile crowd and Cavani stepped up. His late winner made the nation's passage to the semi-finals a little easier.

Chile fail to capitalise

The match felt like it was played in Chile, such was the sea of red in Rio. But the holders were unable to take advantage on the pitch – ending a run of three successive wins.

What's next?

Uruguay will take on Peru in Salvador on Saturday, while Chile are scheduled to play Colombia in Sao Paulo a day earlier.

Chile will assess the fitness of star forward Alexis Sanchez before they contest top spot in Copa America Group C against Uruguay.

Sanchez has put his Manchester United struggles behind him to net in each of La Roja's wins so far in Brazil.

However, he was already carrying an ankle knock by the time he scored decisively after 51 minutes of the 2-1 triumph over Ecuador last time out.

Should he take to the field, the 30-year-old will feature in opposition to some of this generation's finest attacking talent from South America.

Barcelona's Luis Suarez also has two goals from two outings in the competition after converting a penalty in the 2-2 draw against Japan, while Edinson Cavani netted an overhead kick in La Celeste's opening 4-0 thumping of Ecuador.

Chile beat Japan by the same scoreline, meaning only a victory can see Uruguay through as group winners – a result that would undoubtedly feel particularly sweet for Cavani, who was controversially sent-off when La Roja won an ill-tempered contest 1-0 on their way to glory in 2015.

"We know that Chile have a well-drilled game plan, we've known it for a long time. They're well oiled," Cavani told reporters.

"We know what kind of rivals Chile are."

After their last Copa meeting, Chile and Uruguay claimed a win apiece in their showdowns as part of 2018 World Cup qualification.

Uruguay ran out 3-0 winners in Montevideo in November 2015 thanks to goals from Diego Godin, Alvaro Pereira and Martin Caceres.

They were beaten a year later in Santiago as an Eduardo Vargas strike and a Sanchez double overturned Cavani's opener.

However, four defeats from the subsequent six qualifiers saw Chile miss out on Russia 2018, where Uruguay were beaten by eventual winners France in the quarter-finals.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Chile – Gonzalo Jara

The experienced defender has been a substitute for each of Chile's matches in the competition so far, although Reinaldo Rueda should arguably pick him against Uruguay for nuisance value alone. Jara provoked Cavani into a red card when the sides met in 2015, retrospectively earning a ban of his own after replays showed he poked a finger up the striker's bottom. Two years earlier, Suarez was dismissed for punching his marker after Jara appeared to touch him in a different but no-less intimate area. All eyes will be on the 33-year-old if he features at any stage.

Uruguay – Jose Gimenez

Sanchez and Vargas might have enjoyed themselves in chalking up two goals apiece so far, but they are likely to have to raise their game further against Uruguay's defensive master Godin and his long-time partner Gimenez. The Atletico Madrid centre-back scored against Japan and is also a persistent threat at the other end, owing to Uruguay's prowess from dead-ball situations. Between the 2018 World Cup and the 2019 Copa America nine of their 13 goals came from set-pieces, including six via corners.

Key Opta facts

- Uruguay (45) have attempted 20 shots more than Chile (25) so far in the 2019 Copa America.
- Sanchez is the only Chilean player to have netted in four Copas America. He has scored five goals against Uruguay, more than he has against any other nation.
- Suarez is only the third Uruguayan player in history to have scored in four consecutive appearances in the Copa America after Pedro Petrone (five, between 1923 and 1924) and Severino Varela (four, between 1937 and 1939).
- Against Chile, Oscar Tabarez will become the first ever manager to reach 200 games as head coach of the same national team (W98 D48 L53).

Luis Suarez said Uruguay's 2-2 draw with Japan at the Copa America left a "bittersweet feeling" in Porto Alegre.

Suarez scored as Uruguay and Copa guests Japan played out an entertaining draw in Group C on Thursday.

A controversial VAR check allowed Suarez to convert a dubious 32nd-minute penalty after Koji Miyoshi stunned Uruguay seven minutes earlier.

Miyoshi restored Japan's lead approaching the hour mark but Uruguay defender Jose Gimenez levelled proceedings again in the 66th minute on matchday two.

Suarez rued the result, which left Uruguay on four points, after the Barcelona star and team-mate Edinson Cavani both hit the woodwork against Japan – who were routed 4-0 by Chile in their opener.

"We have to correct mistakes and praise the positive things," Suarez told reporters post-match. "We were the ones who created the most clear chances. That is why we left with a bittersweet feeling.

"We played a good game at a general level, but we have the consequence that in this kind of tournament you have two mistakes and they make two goals and you have to be more careful."

"We knew that Japan's performance with Chile was not a true reflection," Suarez continued. "They are quick, they have a lot of quality, they put pressure on us and they did not let us play well."

Uruguay top Group C with four points, a point ahead of two-time reigning champions Chile, who face Ecuador on Friday.

Japan are third with one point from two fixtures, while Ecuador are looking for their first points of this year's tournament.

Atletico Madrid centre-back Gimenez praised Japan, adding: "They played the ball very well in midfield and they were very fast in attack."

Koji Miyoshi scored twice as guests Japan earned a thrilling 2-2 draw against Uruguay at the Copa America amid more VAR controversy in Porto Alegre.

Miyoshi twice gave Japan the lead in the Group C clash but the Copa invitees were pegged back on both occasions by a Luis Suarez penalty and Jose Gimenez on Thursday.

After Miyoshi's opener, Uruguay were awarded a dubious 32nd-minute spot-kick following a VAR review, which penalised Naomichi Ueda for an innocuous attempt to block the ball under minimal contact on Edinson Cavani.

Miyoshi restored Japan's advantage 14 minutes into the second half but Uruguay – 4-0 winners on matchday one – secured a share of the spoils thanks to Gimenez's 66th-minute header.

It was an entertaining contest from the outset after Suarez's audacious half-way line attempt almost embarrassed Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.

Japan were impressive and put Uruguay on the back foot as former Leicester City forward Shinji Okazaki side-footed just wide, while Suarez went close again for the South American side inside 15 minutes.

Japan were routed 4-0 by two-time reigning champions Chile in their opener but they broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when Miyoshi found a way through and scored from a tight angle.

However, Uruguay moved back on level terms seven minutes later after Cavani went down under minimal contact and a VAR check allowed Suarez to step up and convert the spot-kick.

Baffled by the decision, Japan nearly went behind nine minutes prior to the break but Cavani's thunderous effort from outside the area rattled the crossbar.

Both teams had chances to move ahead in an end-to-end second half, but it was Japan who sensationally retook the lead thanks to Miyoshi approaching the hour mark.

After Cavani wasted a golden opportunity at the other end, Fernando Muslera spilt a cross straight at the feet of Miyoshi and the Japan forward fired home from close range.

Japan's lead, however, only lasted seven minutes as defender Gimenez glanced a header past Kawashima from a corner and Uruguay almost completed the comeback inside the final 10 minutes but Suarez's header hit the woodwork.

 

What does it mean? Match of the tournament

Amid small crowds and VAR controversies this month, Japan and Uruguay produced the best game of the Copa America so far. Played at a high pace and with a lot of quality, both teams left everything on the pitch.

Japan show their quality

The Samurai Blue brought a young squad to Brazil, with a focus on next year's Olympics in Tokyo. While they were put to the sword by Chile, Japan were a constant threat against Uruguay and unfortunate not to claim their first Copa victory.

VAR in the spotlight again

Technology has played a big role in this year's tournament and the video assistant referee was in the thick of the action again on Thursday. Uruguay benefited from a controversial decision in the first half, which raised further questions about VAR's accuracy.

What's next?

Group C concludes with Uruguay facing Chile on Monday, while Japan meet Ecuador on the same day.

Uruguay left-back Diego Laxalt does not want his team-mates to take Japan lightly despite the sides' sharply contrasting openings to their Copa America campaigns.

Assisted by a first-half red card for Jose Quinteros, Uruguay made an emphatic start to the tournament as they thrashed Ecuador 4-0.

Japan's guest status did not afford them any soft treatment, meanwhile, as holders Chile triumphed by the same scoreline.

"I don't know," Laxalt replied when asked whether a youthful Japan squad, selected with an eye on next year's Olympic Games, were the weakest team in Group C ahead of their meeting in Porto Alegre on Thursday.

"We watched a little bit of their match. The score maybe was not deserved because they had a few chances, with lots of missed opportunities.

"I saw them with high intensity, great speed, great players as well. I don't see it as an easy game whatsoever.

"We already played against Japan a few months ago and it was hard for us. So, we must think that we're facing a great opponent."

That October friendly in Saitama ended in a 4-3 victory for Japan, with Matias Vecino absent for Uruguay.

It will be the same at Arena do Gremio after the influential midfielder suffered a thigh injury to curtail his tournament.

Arsenal's Lucas Torreira is favourite to start in Vecino's absence, which will not entirely temper enthusiasm around the prospects of an experienced and well-drilled Celeste side collecting their country's 16th crown in this competition, including in its former guise as the South American Championship.

"Even before we arrived here, you could hear people talking about us being strong," Laxalt added.

"Last match, we had a great game. We had a great score, made lots of goals, but that doesn't mean anything. We need to keep on that path, thinking of the next match in order to continue forward. We're focusing on Japan."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uruguay – Rodrigo Bentancur

An impressive season at Juventus has reportedly left Bentancur on the verge of a new long-term contract with the Serie A champions and Vecino's injury means there is greater onus on an all-action performer retaining his excellent form in the Uruguay engine room.

Japan – Takefusa Kubo

The Real Madrid-bound teenager showed flashes of his prodigious talent in the Chile defeat and will be keen to embellish his reputation against one of the strongest defences in international football.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Uruguay have won four and lost two of their previous seven encounters with Japan. This will be the first competitive meeting between the countries.
- Japan's opening loss was their heaviest defeat for four years – also a 4-0 reverse to South American opposition in a 2014 friendly against Brazil.
- The Blue Samurai are still searching for a maiden Copa America win having lost two and drawn on their only previous appearance in 1999.
- Uruguay have won their past four games by three or more goals – the first time in their history La Celeste have managed such a run.
- Luis Suarez has had a hand in eight goals across his seven Copa America appearances, producing his fifth goal and third assist in the Ecuador rout.

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