Arena do Gremio - Copa America
Uruguay and Japan meet at the Arena do Gremio in the early hours of Friday, in a crucial Copa America fixture for both countries. It’s a must-win for Japan after their 4-0 defeat to Chile, while Uruguay were on the right side of a 4-0 scoreline as they saw off 10-man Ecuador with ease.
These countries have only ever played each other four times, with all of the meetings coming in friendlies over the last 11 years. Uruguay won the first three games between the countries, but Japan emerged victorious in an entertaining contest in Saitama last October, which finished 4-3 to the Samurai Blue.
Takumi Minamino scored a brace for Japan in that 4-3 victory last year, but this Samurai Blue squad is geared towards preparations for the Olympics next year. That means the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Maya Yoshida and Yoshinori Muto are also absent, but there is a place for Leicester City’s Shinji Okazaki.
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez both started against Ecuador, and will continue up front for Uruguay here. Atletico Madrid duo Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez form a solid central defensive partnership for La Celeste, who have now kept four successive clean sheets.
Uruguay v Japan Preview and Predictions
Cavani and Suarez were both on target for Uruguay in their victory over Ecuador, as La Celeste enjoyed a 3-0 half-time lead following Nicolas Lodeiro’s opener. Japan meanwhile conceded three times in the second period as they surrendered to Chile, leaving them in a perilous position in Group C.
Hajime Moriyasu’s side are staring down the barrel of an early exit, although with two third-placed teams going through to the knockouts, all will not necessarily be lost with a defeat here. The Samurai Blue showed they can handle South American teams in beating Colombia at last summer’s World Cup and Uruguay in a friendly a few months later, but this is a tough one for Japan.
La Celeste are miserly at the back and give up few chances. Even if Japan can enjoy spells of possession, Uruguay are a constant menace on the break with their hard-running strike duo, which has the potential to win the competition for their country.
As long as Oscar Tabarez continues with his strongest XI, Uruguay have all the tools to pick up a second win and seal their safe passage into the quarter-finals. They are 2/11 favourites for the win, with Japan available at 20/1 and the draw 13/2.
Uruguay to win to nil at 8/11
La Celeste are looking for their fifth clean sheet in a row here, while Japan have failed to score in three of their last five matches.
Over 6.5 goals at 20/1
On the other hand, Japan scored four times against Uruguay a matter of months ago, and the Samurai Blue will have to throw everything at their opponents in this game.