Edinson Cavani was on target as Uruguay booked their spot in the knockout stages of the Copa America with a 2-0 victory over Bolivia at Arena Pantanal.
After losing their opening match to Argentina, Oscar Tabarez’s men drew 1-1 with Chile on matchday two to breathe a bit of life into their campaign, and a first Group A win was enough to seal a place in the last eight.
They largely struggled in the first half against Cesar Farias’ side, yet went in at the break 1-0 up courtesy of an unlucky own goal by Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe.
La Celeste dominated the second period and scored a deserved second 11 minutes from time through Cavani, who had earlier missed a host of glorious chances.
Bolivia held their own in the opening stages, with Uruguay reduced to little more than half-chances inside the first 20 minutes.
Cavani had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock midway through the first half, but the Manchester United forward was thwarted by Lampe after struggling to get the ball out of his feet.
Uruguay went ahead five minutes before the interval in fortuitous circumstances, Luis Suarez’s low cross diverted into his own net by Lampe after Jairo Quinteros’ attempted clearance had crashed against him.
Cavani fired straight at Lampe shortly after the interval when it looked easier to score, while at the other end Fernando Muslera tipped over a powerful strike from Ramiro Vaca.
Lampe twice denied Suarez before the hour mark – the first seeing him keep out the Atletico Madrid striker’s audacious 40-yard half-volley – before the Bolivia keeper pawed over a fierce drive from Rodrigo Bentancur.
Substitute Facundo Torres missed a glaring opportunity at the back post, but the 21-year-old made amends with a fine low cross which was clinically dispatched by Cavani from 12 yards to wrap up all three points.
Uruguay really should have scored a third deep into stoppage time, yet Maxi Gomez inexplicably skewered wide with the goal at his mercy.
What does it mean? Wayward finishing does not cost La Celeste… this time
A first Group A win at the third attempt was enough to seal a place in the knockout stages, yet Tabarez will be concerned by his side’s dismal finishing – epitomised by Gomez’s shocking late miss.
With two of world football’s most deadly forwards in Suarez and Cavani, it is scarcely believable Uruguay have now scored just three goals in their past six games in all competitions. Those two, in particular, will need to sharpen up dramatically if Tabarez’s side are to secure a record-extending 16th title.
Bolivia, meanwhile, are rock bottom after three consecutive defeats and need a minor miracle if they are to progress to the last eight.
Vecino makes Uruguay tick
Matias Vecino was an impressive presence at the heart of Uruguay’s midfield. The Inter man made more successful passes (66) than any player on the pitch, while no-one got close to his 47 passes in the opposition half. As if that was not enough, he also won possession more times than anyone else (nine).
Suarez out of sorts
Cavani missed a host of chances, but he at least walked away with a goal to his name. Suarez had no such luck, the talismanic forward taking six shots – three of which were on target – without finding the back of the net.
Both sides wrap up their Group A campaigns on Monday, with Uruguay facing Paraguay in Rio de Janeiro and Bolivia taking on Argentina in Cuiaba.
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