Uruguay and Paraguay will go head-to-head in Sunday’s eagerly awaited Copa America final. As well as the prestige of succeeding Brazil as champions, the winners will also secure a berth at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013, the final dress rehearsal for the FIFA World Cup™ the following year.
In search of their 15th Copa America crown, unbeaten Uruguay reached the final with an impressive 2-0 defeat of Peru in the semi-finals and have maintained the core of the team that finished fourth at South Africa 2010. La Albirroja have also yet to lose a game but have failed to win one either, ousting Brazil and Venezuela on penalties in the quarters and semis respectively, becoming the first team ever to reach the final with five consecutive draws.
La Celeste have not lost to the Paraguayans in the Copa America since going down 4-2 in 1947, although Los Guaraníes have won four of the five meetings between the countries in Buenos Aires.
The team news is that Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino has a full squad to choose from, with the exception of Roque Santa Cruz, who is struggling once more with injury. “It would be torture to watch the final from the sidelines,” said the luckless striker, who needs just one more goal to become the country’s all-time leading goalscorer. As for Uruguay, Diego Perez is available again having served a one-match suspension for his dismissal against Argentina.
Luis Suarez vs Justo Villar
This battle within a battle pits a fearless finisher against an unbeatable goalkeeper. The Liverpool front man is the competition’s joint-highest scorer with three goals, while the new Estudiantes custodian has gone 280 minutes without conceding and made vital stops in Paraguay’s penalty shoot-out wins in the previous two rounds. The outcome in this fascinating showdown could well decide the fate of the title.
Did you know?
Uruguay’s last five Copa America triumphs have all come the year after a FIFA World Cup: 1959, 1967, 1983, 1987 and 1995. Will La Celeste keep the sequence going in 2011?
70 - Sunday’s final is the 70th meeting between Uruguay and Paraguay. La Celeste hold sway with 28 wins to La Albirroja’s 26, with the other 15 games ending in draws.
What they said
“Paraguay have the same expectations and the same dream as we do. Both teams want to play football and it’s going to be a great battle and an intense game,”
Uruguay captain Diego Lugano
“Uruguay are getting stronger as the tournament goes on and they played their best game in the semis against Peru. Paraguay are doing things the other way round but when you’re going for a title as important as this, that doesn’t really matter so much,”
Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino