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Copa América: Uruguay sets Bolivia alight, topping Group C

Uruguay thrashed Bolivia 5-0 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford in what could be deemed the most one-sided match of the 2024 Copa América so far. The Google-predicted odds favoring Uruguay before the game were 96 percent to 4 and 99 to one at halftime.

The Charrúa squad pushed lightly and intensified mostly by crossing from right to left. The left would become an ironic constant for the two-time world champions throughout the match. On the crossing task at first were Matías Viña and Maximiliano Araújo, soon replaced by Darwin Núñez. Diego de la Cruz came in handy at minute 5, charging and heading himself.

The first goal came in from Facundo Pellistri at minute 7 after volleying a header from Ronald Araújo. Soon after, the crossing got fuzzier between the Uruguayans as Darwin briefly took up the right and crossed it. This was quickly reversed as the Bolivians sensed an opening. The second came later, at minute 20, when Núñez chipped the ball in a clean volley under the arm of Bolivian goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra.

The first half soon became dominated by Núñez's artillery. He had determined the match's pace for the first three minutes by rushing at the goal from the usual direction. By the 10-minute mark, De La Cruz and Viña found ways to collaborate and keep the left under control as Núñez advanced to goalside. This allowed him to attempt headers, as he did at minute 26.

At around the same time, statistical disparities were at their greatest, with possession at around 72 percent to 28. The Bolivians wouldn't miss out on the tournament's tripping trend, with a particular instance being Hector Cuellar grabbing Araújo by the collarbone and dragging him down, for which a video-assisted referee (VAR) analysis was called and denied, prompting boos from fans.

The only moment Bolivia tangibly threatened Uruguay's gate came at around minute 30 when a corner kick by Bolivia's Yomar Rocha gave the Andean team some edge and a piece of offensive space. This roughly lasted half a minute. In the meantime, a passing circle established between Araújo, de la Cruz, and Viña that allowed Núñez to do his thing if he could, but he was noticeably restrained nearing the end of the half, which ended in a 2-0 advantage for Uruguay.

Coach Marcelo Bielsa barely had to change anything about Uruguay's makeup for the second half, the only thing probably being the promotion of Ronald Araújo to a better defensive role, particularly in air control. The Charrúas found it very hard to abandon the left side of the field this time, with the Bolivians waking up in the early stages of the half and a shot by Federico Valverde the only attempt in the first ten minutes.

Bolivia's offensive recovery was started by several runs for the goal by Ramiro Vaca and Miguel Terceros from the left. Vaca would step aside, and Terceros' runs would become rarer and rarer until Manuel Ugarte would thwart them. Vaca found something to do in passing it to Gabriel Villamil back and forth, attempting to push forward from the right, but he was stopped by Pellistri in an inverse to his role in the first half. His last attempts were more clearly lone wolf.

By minute 71, Uruguay's presses were now firmly the responsibility of Núñez and Pellistri, the two single-handedly able to keep any Bolivian resistance at bay. At minute 77, Maximiliano Araújo scored the Charrua's third goal before tripping over a defender in a low pass, not unlike the opening goal of the tournament. By then, Bolivia collectively caved under the pressure.

Goals four and five were equally predictable, with Valverde coming in from the left at minute 80 on an assist by Pellistri and substitute Rodrigo Betancur heading it off of Giorgian de Arrascaeta's free kick at minute 89. However, the primarily Uruguayan crowd was not fully satisfied and chanted a name they eventually got. Shortly after Valverde's goal, Bielsa introduced Luis Suárez-- Uruguay's winning captain at the 2011 Copa America-- who is most likely playing his last tournament. As expected, his presence was not as impactful as one would expect.

In a nutshell, Uruguay thrashed Bolivia with only a few changes throughout the game and used all its capital without relying entirely on the marquées. If anything, this makes the Charrúas look even more like their western neighbors, which makes a potential clash with them in the final—a possibility according to the brackets—a well-anticipated match.

Uruguay's next Copa match was against the United States, which had lost to Panama 2-1 earlier that day, and Tim Weah lost to a Red Card. That match will be on Monday, July 1, at 9 p.m. Eastern Time in Kansas City. The next and final Copa América game at MetLife Stadium will be Tuesday, July 9 at 8 p.m. The teams come from Groups A and B, currently dominated by Argentina and Venezuela.

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