With Argentina rebuilding again under a new coach and Brazil having qualified automatically for the tournament that they will host, Uruguay came into the marathon South American campaign as favourites. The combination of an early kick-off and miserable weather conditions meant there was a sparse crowd at the Centenario stadium, but Oscar Washington Tabarez's side did not disappoint the fans who did turn out.
They took the lead with just three minutes on the clock when Liverpool striker Luis Suarez netted from inside the six-yard box after the Bolivian defence had failed to deal with a Diego Forlan corner. It looked set to be plain sailing for the hosts, but Bolivia came up with a shock equaliser when Rudy Cardozo clipped the ball over goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and into the net off the far post.
La Celeste, FIFA World Cup winners in 1930 and 1950, reacted well to restore their lead before the half-hour mark when captain Diego Lugano rose highest to head a Forlan free-kick past Carlos Arias in the Bolivia goal. And it was 3-1 before the interval with Napoli's Edinson Cavani diving to head home a right-wing Maxi Pereira cross at the far post.
Bolivia are not the same side when they leave the rarefied atmosphere of their La Paz home and they could have conceded a fourth shortly after when Forlan saw his header from close range saved by Arias. The Inter Milan player needs just one goal to become Uruguay's all-time leading scorer, but he will have to wait at least another few days as it was Lugano that got his second and his team's fourth from close range midway through the second-half.
Marcelo Martins pulled another goal back for the visitors from the penalty spot, but they should be a different proposition when they host Colombia on Tuesday.