Uruguay, US make winning starts to Copa campaigns

Published June 25, 2024
ARLINGTON: Folarin Balogun (L) of the USA scores during the Copa America Group C match against Bolivia at the AT&T Stadium.—AFP
ARLINGTON: Folarin Balogun (L) of the USA scores during the Copa America Group C match against Bolivia at the AT&T Stadium.—AFP

NEW YORK: Maximilian Araujo, Darwin Nunez and Matias Vina scored as Uruguay launched their Copa America campaign with a 3-1 victory over Panama on Sunday to move level with the United States on three points at the top of Group ‘C’.

Christian Pulisic scored one goal and set up another as tournament hosts US recorded a clinical 2-0 victory over Bolivia in their opener.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay, who have won the Copa America a joint record 15 times, were rewarded for their blistering early pace at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami when Araujo fired home a sublime curling effort from the edge of the area in the 16th minute.

Panama grew into the match after the break and wasted several chances to get themselves back into the contest.

Jose Fajardo blasted an effort wide in the 52nd minute after a defensive error by Mathias Olivera, while Jose Rodriguez tested Uruguay goalkeeper Sergio Rochet with a ferocious shot from range.

Uruguay were on the ropes for much of the second half but Nunez, who had already missed a string of chances, settled their nerves in the 85th minute with a coolly-taken volley into the bottom corner after a rebound dropped kindly for him.

In a frenetic spell during stoppage time, Vina rose highest to head home Uruguay’s third from a set-piece before Michael Amir Murillo netted a consolation goal for Panama after cutting back onto his left foot and curling his shot past Rochet.

“In the first half we were better. In the second half they controlled the game for the first 15 or 20 minutes,” Nunez said.

“We suffered a bit, but with the second goal we improved again and ended up playing well. We missed a lot of chances, a lot of plays that ended badly. But you learn from mistakes and we never gave up.”

Pulisic curled in a superb third-minute goal to set the US on their way before the captain teed up a second for striker Folarin Balogun just before half-time at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“We came out flying with a lot of intensity,” Pulisic said. “Obviously an early goal helped us a lot, but all around a pretty dominant performance.”

A missed opportunity by Balogun in the first 20 seconds was soon forgotten when Pulisic scored a spectacular goal from the edge of the box, beating Bolivian keeper Guillermo Viscarra.

The US doubled their lead in the 44th minute when Pulisic found Balogun and the striker ended his six-match goal drought in international matches with a low shot into the bottom corner.

The hosts continued their onslaught with Ricardo Pepi, who came on as a substitute in the 65th minute, denied four times by Viscarra.

“We tried to recover but of course, after the goal in minute three, it all went down the hill,” Bolivia coach Antonio Carlos Zago told reporters. “We should have competed a bit more, but we need to be aware that we had the host team in front of us. They are a strong national team and I am really happy with the effort made by the players.”

The US next face CONCACAF rivals Panama on Thursday in Atlanta, while Uruguay will take on Bolivia in New Jersey.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2024

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