Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez hails team’s dedication
Tabarez's side overcome fitness woes to beat Ecuador 4-0 in opener
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez praised his team's commitment, after they thumped 10-man Ecuador 4-0 in their opening Group C match at the Copa America yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Uruguay headed into the South American championship with various concerns, particularly the fitness levels of star duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
Barcelona striker Suarez underwent knee surgery last month, while Cavani missed the business end of Paris Saint-Germain's season with a hip issue, Goal.com reported.
"I always expect the best from these players here in the national team, because they have a huge commitment to the team," Tabarez said.
"But there were some cases like Suarez, this is the first game he plays after his injury, he played just some training matches.
"Cavani also had an important injury and just played the last games in his league. (Cristhian) Stuani, Jonathan Rodriguez also had problems - there were a lot of uncertainty."
Nicolas Lodeiro opened the scoring after just six minutes when he beat one defender with his chest control, flicked the ball over another and then hit a crisp, low volley into the bottom far corner, AFP reported.
Soon after, Lodeiro was involved in another pivotal moment when Ecuador fullback Jose Quintero's flailing arm struck the Uruguay midfielder's face.
Brazilian referee Anderson Daronco initially showed Quintero a yellow card but, after consulting VAR, he changed that to red.
With a numerical advantage, Uruguay ran riot at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte.
After missing two good chances, Cavani acrobatically rasped a bicycle-kick from seven metres past a helpless Alexander Dominguez for his 47th international goal.
Suarez put the game to bed a minute before the break, stealing in at the back post to poke home a flick-on from Martin Caceres.
The rout was completed 12 minutes from time when Gaston Pereiro's header fell to Ecuador centre-back Arturo Mina, who inadvertently volleyed into his own goal.
"We had chances in the first half, we managed to take them and that gave us the tranquillity to manage the game," said Cavani, who finally scored his first Copa America goal in his fourth participation.
"It was an important step. We knew they would be very tough opponents. The important thing was to start the game with maximum concentration and we managed that."
It was the ideal beginning for Uruguay, barring Matias Vecino's injury concern, in a difficult Group C alongside champions Chile and guests Japan, who met this morning in Sao Paulo.
"We can almost be completely happy about this win, but Vecino has muscular pain and we will look at it," Tabarez said.
"Football always carries its surprises, we must be ready for everything. Maybe we should have rested players, but just when I was going to change Suarez, we got this with Vecino.
"However, we are glad about this because we assumed this game was going to be hard, as every game is in South American competitions, and this win is something important for us, it is what we wanted."
Ecuador's Colombian coach Hernan Gomez felt that the result was not a fair reflection of the game, but admitted that their opponents were the better side.
"We're not as bad as that. It was a match that got away from us, especially in the first half when it got away from us in every aspect," Gomez said.
"However, they were better than us. Uruguay are a great team, very experienced."
Uruguay will face Japan in Porto Alegre in their next match on Friday, before facing off against defending champions Chile four days later.