Uruguay vs Paraguay | Saturday 20 June | Estadio La Portada de La Serena | 21:00
Uruguay will lock horns with high-flying Paraguay on Saturday in what is a repeat of the 2011 final. La Celeste were worthy winners on the day, winning 3-0 to lift their fifteenth Copa America title thanks to goals from Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez – the latter still serving an international ban after biting Giorgio Chiellini at last year’s World Cup. This is a must-win game for the defending champions, whereas Paraguay only need a point to make it through to the quarter-finals. These two have played against each other a number of times in the past with their last meeting ending all-square at 1-1 in a World Cup qualifier in March 2013.
To Win (90mins)
Uruguay are currently third on the group ladder with three points after beating Jamaica 1-0 in their opener but failed to back that up as they went down to Argentina by the same scoreline. The defending Copa America champions don't have quite the same lustre to them as they did four years ago. Back then, they were riding the high of an unexpectedly strong World Cup performance the year before and had the talents of all three of Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan to rely on in attack, sweeping aside virtually every opponent with ease. More recently, the side managed by Oscar Tabarez hasn't been nearly as lethal. Forlan – Uruguay's most-capped player and second-highest all-time goalscorer – has retired from international football. Suarez, who was voted Most Valuable Player at the 2011 Copa America, is still suspended after that biting incident. The attack is mostly held down by Cavani, who is still an excellent player in his own right, but Uruguay struggle to reliably create chances for him in dangerous areas thanks to a midfield that's often left fans disappointed of late. The best part about this Uruguayan team is their solid defensive unit that don’t give away goals too cheaply. The Atletico Madrid duo of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez are one of the best defensive pairings in the tournament.
Paraguay have yet to lose a game so they will be no pushovers. They have four points already in the bank after drawing 2-2 with Argentina before running out 1-0 winners over Jamaica in game two. While Paraguay may lack the sheer star power of some of the teams around them, they've got a solid group of players who can make life difficult for their opponents. They play hard-nosed, grind-you-down football, a style that trickier or flashier teams can often struggle with. And with a couple of opportunistic goal scorers in the side, you can never count them out of a match. Oscar Romero is Paraguay’s focal point in attack. He is not the most dynamic of players, but this small and stocky, left-footed playmaker is highly adept at taking up good positions to provide a link between midfield and attack, and he possesses the necessary inventiveness and deftness of touch to unlock opposition defences. There are also many other dangerous players and huge scoring threats in the team with the likes of Edgar Benitez, Nelson Valdez and Lucas Barrios who have all found the net in the competition.
VERDICT: Paraguay 27/10
These sides cancel each other out in their head-to-head record with four wins apiece and two draws in the last ten meetings. Suarez’s presence has clearly been missed and Paraguay are brimming with confidence following their incredible comeback draw against Argentina and their hard-fought win against Jamaica. It should be a tight affair but I’m backing Paraguay to get the revenge win that should see them qualify while Uruguay go home packing, available at 27/10.