The first match in Group C of the 2019 Copa America sees Uruguay face Ecuador in Belo Horizonte.
Mineirao, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Key Stat: Ecuador are without a win so far in 2019, drawing two and losing two of their four matches - all of which were played in the USA.
Expert Verdict: Uruguay start out as third-favourites to win the Copa America and will be expected to start the tournament with a win against Ecuador. They have put a bad run of results in late 2018 behind them and, with renewed confidence, should start with victory.
Experienced midfielder Carlos Sanchez is one of four players to miss out on the Copa America from Uruguay’s China Cup squad. The squad is very similar to that which travelled to the World Cup, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani both selected despite their respective injury problems this season. Suarez proved his fitness with a goal in the warm-up win against Panama.
Luis Suarez – Scored his 56th international goal on his return from injury in the friendly against Panama, in his 107th international appearance.
Edinson Cavani – Just behind Suarez overall, with 46 goals in 110 games, but his absence was keenly felt when he missed the World Cup quarter-final last summer.
Diego Godin – The other centurion in the current squad, the captain is a rock at the back and has 127 international caps to his name.
After a losing end to 2018, Uruguay have won all three matches they have played so far in 2019 – though it has been against weaker opposition. They won the China Cup after beating Uzbekistan 3-0 and Thailand 4-0 – Cristhian Stuani scoring three goals, Gaston Pereiro netting in both matches too and Mathias Vecino and Maxi Gomez also netting in the final. Last time out, Gomez, Luis Suarez and Federico Valverde scored in a 3-0 friendly win against Panama.
Defenders:Martin Caceras, Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez, Diego Laxalt
Midfielders:Nahitan Nandez, Rodrigo Betancur, Lucas Torreira, Nicolas Lodeiro
Forwards:Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani
Captain Antonio Valencia has overcome an injury-hit season to take his place in the squad and is set to line-up on the right wing. Ecuador started with just Enner Valencia up front against Mexico, but the introduction of Angel Mena brought a goal and both men could start the tournament.
Antonio Valencia – Set to play in his more familiar advanced role on the right wing and will have plenty to prove after an injury-hit year with Man United.
Enner Valencia – His last-minute leveller against Venezuela continued his good recent scoring record for his country, which has lifted him to 28 goals in 48 appearances.
Angel Mena – Scored in the defeat to Mexico to stake his claim for a place up front alongside Enner Valencia.
Ecuador have lost two and drawn two of their four matches in 2019 so far. In March, they lost 1-0 to the USA and drew 0-0 with Honduras, while this month has brought a 1-1 draw with Venezuela thanks to Enner Valencia’s last-minute leveller and a 3-2 defeat to Mexico – Angel Mena and Ayrton Preciado scoring.
Defenders:Pedro Velasco, Gabriel Achilier, Robert Aboleda, Cristian Ramirez
Midfielders:Antonio Valencia, Jefferson Orejuela, Andres Chicaiza, Ayrton Preciado
Forwards:Enner Valencia, Angel Mena
Uruguay’s win against Ecuador when the two teams last met, during World Cup qualification, was their 30th in this fixture. There have also been 11 draws and six Ecuador victories. Sebastian Coates gave Uruguay the lead in their most recent match and, just moments after Felipe Caicedo’s leveller, Diego Rolan scored what proved to be the winner.
Uruguay have won all three matches they have played in 2019 without conceding a goal, which bodes very well ahead of this tournament.
Those three wins have all come against weaker opposition, but success breeds success and the Uruguayans should arrive in plenty of confidence.
Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are both fit up front, while their ever-experienced centre-back pairing of Jose Maria Gimenez and Diego Godin remain integral at the other end.
Uruguay are rated as third-favourites for the tournament behind Brazil and Argentina, and that is a fair reflection of their standing in South American football.
They are certainly expected to open the tournament with a win against Ecuador, who themselves are without a win in 2019.
Ecuador too have had an injury boost, with captain Antonio Valencia fit and in the squad, but he endured a frustrating season whereas Suarez and Cavani were both prolific in the games they did play.
Uruguay have quality at both ends of the pitch – and it should prove to be too much quality for out-of-form Ecuador.
Uruguay are odds-on to beat Ecuador in their opening match in Group C and can be backed at 31/40 to win with Betway.
With quality at both ends of the pitch – and having not conceded in their three wins so far this year – a Uruguay win to nil is worth backing at 7/5 with Bet365 and Betway.
You can also beat against both teams to score at a best price of 8/13 with 888sport.
Both Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez are fit for Uruguay, and both strikers are 11/8 to score at any time with Bet365.
Uruguay have got back to winning ways this year, unlike Ecuador, and it would be a big surprise if Luis Suarez and co did not start this tournament with a victory.