While Uruguay often finds themselves overshadowed by the ‘glamour teams’ of South American soccer (eg: Argentina and Brazil) they’ve actually won the Copa America on more occasions than any other country. They haven’t had as much success over the past decade as they have historically but with Brazil and Argentina both in a state of disarray they currently look like the best team in the competition. They have a strong chance of getting their second victory in two tries on Thursday as they face Japan.
Japan was the Asian Confederation runner up, losing the championship game to Qatar. They’re under no delusions about their status in the soccer world–South American or otherwise. They’re using this appearance at the Copa America as a learning experience. The thinking is that by facing all of the top flight competition they can at this juncture that they’ll be in a position to turn in a strong effort next year when the Summer Olympic games will be held in Tokyo.
Even with this realistic attitude toward their role in the Copa America, this is not a team that will allow themselves to be a doormat. They will definitely come to compete and will likely take a page out Venezuela’s playbook against Brazil by focusing on defense and making it tough for Uruguay to score. Its doubtful, however, that they’ll be able to keep Uruguay off the board for too long. Uruguay had no trouble whatsoever with Ecuador in the opening game of this tournament and is just loaded with offensive weapons.
Japan’s opening game experience against Chile is instructive here. The game was scoreless until Chile scored in the final five minutes of the first half to take a 1-0 lead to the locker room. Chile would score again in the 54th minute and that 2-0 scoreline would prevail until the last 15 minutes of the game when Japan’s defense finally caved allowing Chile to score two more to produce the final 4-0 result. Facing what is almost certainly a superior Uruguay side here that type of game is likely once again.
The likely defensive emphasis of Japan makes the total a bit problematic. It’s tough to count on Japan to do anything offensively meaning that Uruguay would have to score three goals in order to make the ‘Over’ work. At the same time, Uruguay’s offensive potency makes the ‘Under’ of little interest either. We’ll take a shot on the handicap line since a 2-0 final score seems reasonable. Note that Uruguay has kept a clean sheet in four straight while Japan’s offense has sputtered when stepping up in class.