Mexico maintained the stylish form they have shown throughout the Copa America Venezuela 2007 to ease past the Celeste 3-1 in Saturday evening's third-place play-off match at the Estadio Olimpico in Caracas. In so doing they completed a hat-trick of bronze-medal finishes since first taking part in the tournament in 1993.

Shrugging off the disappointment of their comprehensive semi-final defeat to Argentina and the absence of their defensive rock and inspirational captain Rafael Marquez, El Tri produced some silky football to ensure they left Venezuela with spirits high. Shorn by injury of striker Alvaro Recoba and midfielder Diego Perez, the Uruguayans had little answer to an impressive attacking display from Hugo Sanchez's men.

For a while, though, it looked as if the depleted Charrúas would make off with the prize, Sebastian El Loco Abreu heading in the 80th goal of the tournament from Maximiliano Pereira's looping cross after half an hour.

Their hopes took a huge blow just minutes later however, when skipper Diego Lugano was dismissed for bringing down Gerardo Torrado in the box, allowing Cuauthemoc Blanco to level the game up from the spot.

"It's not the same to finish third as fourth," commented Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez in the build-up to the game and his side showed their determination to finish on a high note as they poured forward after the break. Yet with their opponents a man to the good, the task of finding a way past Guillermo Ochoa for a second time proved beyond them.

Mexico duly made their numerical superiority count on 67 minutes when Omar Bravo rifled home a right-foot drive from just outside the box, team-mate Jose Guardado getting in on the act eight minutes later with another piledriver from 25 yards out.

As well as taking El Tri to another top-three finish, the match also provided a fitting farewell for the inimitable Blanco, who departs the international scene after many years of entertaining the fans with his unique tricks. As for Uruguay, their quest for a 15th continental title continues, the men in sky blue last claiming the trophy in 1995 when they hosted the event.

The world's oldest national team tournament will reach what promises to be a dramatic finale on Sunday evening in Maracaibo (21:05 GMT) when Brazil and Argentina go head-to-head in a match that has caught the imagination of fans across the globe.