Uruguay appointed former Inter Miami boss Diego Alonso as head coach of the CONMEBOL nation, it was announced on Tuesday.

Former Uruguay international Alonso replaces Oscar Tabarez after the legendary coach was sacked last month following a 15-year tenure.

Uruguay parted with Tabarez amid the country's woes after four consecutive defeats in 2022 World Cup qualifying left them seventh in the 10-team standings, but just one point adrift of fourth-placed Colombia and the final automatic qualification berth.

The Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) made no further comment upon confirming Alonso as the new coach.

River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo was reportedly the AUF's number one target before the Argentine coach re-signed with the champions.

Uruguay then turned to Alonso, who was available after his departure from David Beckham's MLS outfit Inter Miami in January.

Alonso – an eight-time international – has also coached Monterrey, Pachuca, Olimpia, Penarol, Guarani and Bella Vista.

The 46-year-old guided both Monterrey and Pachuca to CONCACAF Champions League glory in 2019 and 2017 respectively.

Alonso's first match in charge of Uruguay will be against ninth-placed Paraguay on January 27.

Oscar Tabarez has been sacked as Uruguay coach, ending his 15-year reign at the helm of the national team.

The 74-year-old returned for his second spell in charge of Uruguay in 2006 – having also been in the role between 1988-1990 – after La Celeste's failure to reach the World Cup that year.

He led them to fourth place at the 2010 World Cup and presided over success in the 2011 Copa America.

However, after losing their past four games in World Cup 2022 qualifying, including a 3-0 defeat in Bolivia on Tuesday, Tabarez has been dismissed with Uruguay sitting in seventh place with four wins from their 14 games (D4 L6).

With four games remaining, they are just one point off Colombia in the fourth and final automatic qualification spot, but the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) has taken the decision to act now.

A statement released by the AUF on Friday said: "[This is] a difficult decision due to present circumstances, in a commitment to the future and the achievement of the results we all want.

"We express our respect and acknowledgment to [Tabarez's] professionalism and dedication for such a long process."

Tabarez boasts the records for most games (74, including play-offs) and most wins (31) as head coach in the history of South American World Cup qualifying.

During his first stint in charge of the national team, Tabarez took Uruguay to the 1990 World Cup, being eliminated in the round of 16 by hosts Italy.

After his re-appointment in 2006, the former Boca Juniors and Milan boss took his nation to a further three World Cups (2010, 2014 and 2018).

And so, the countdown begins…

The 2022 World Cup is just over a year away, with Qatar set to begin the tournament against a still-to-be-decided opponent on November 21, 2022.

Even writing it feels strange. A World Cup… starting in November. But that is the reality, with Qatar's controversial – to put it kindly – hosting of the competition effectively rendering a tournament in June/July impossible due to the conditions.

With only a year to go, 13 of the competing nations (including Qatar) have confirmed their qualification, including record five-time winners Brazil and defending champions France.

Of course, most countries will have a fairly settled group of players, but a year is a long time in football, and a few newcomers will make the breakthrough.

As such, Stats Perform has identified 11 uncapped players who could break into their respective national teams by this time in 2022, and those players' progress will be tracked over the next 12 months in follow-up features.

Without any further ado, here are the chosen players...

Luis Maximiano (Portugal) – 22, goalkeeper, Granada

Yes, yes, Maximiano's inclusion here already implies a massive assumption that Portugal will even make it to Qatar, given their 2-1 home defeat by Serbia left them needing to go through the play-offs.

Nevertheless, it's reasonable to expect them to make it, and if they do, Maximiano may fancy himself as being in with a shot, particularly after a strong start to 2021-22.

He replaced compatriot Rui Silva – who left for Real Betis – between the posts at Granada after falling out of favour at Sporting CP, and he's showing his quality.

 

According to Opta's xGOT (expected goals on target) conceded data, Maximiano has already prevented 3.7 goals in LaLiga this season, the second-most in the division.

Of course, such metrics are weighted in favour of goalkeepers in teams are that kept defensively busy, and Granada are 17th in LaLiga, but we can create a fairer comparison by standardising for the number of shots each keeper faced by looking at their 'goals prevented rate'.

Maximiano's goals prevented rate of 1.37 means he was expected to concede 1.37 goals for every goal actually conceded, and again this is the second best in the league this season.

His shot-stopping abilities have reportedly caught the attention of Barcelona, and given Portugal's lack of a standout goalkeeper (and that's including first-choice Rui Patricio), Maximiano certainly isn't out of the running for Qatar 2022.

Jonathan Clauss (France) – 29, right-back, Lens

Football loves a late bloomer; maybe it's because they convince some of us we can still make it as a professional player. Lens star Clauss is a fascinating embodiment of the phenomenon.

Now 29, Clauss did not make his top-flight debut until the start of 2020-21, but it's fair to say he's been a revelation in a Lens side who have truly captured the imagination since they were promoted back to Ligue 1 in 2019-20 – 13 games into the current campaign, they're second to PSG.

A year out from Qatar 2022, Clauss is being mentioned in France media conferences, with Didier Deschamps last week asked why he wasn't called up. Of course, the coach's decision to go with options he knows when qualification wasn't assured is fair enough, but the Lens man is seemingly now in contention.

He has already had a hand in eight Ligue 1 goals this season, with six assists the joint-most in the division. His positivity on the flank as a wing-back is proving a massive asset to Lens, for whom he also set up six goals last term.

Of course, his greater comfort as a wing-back rather than an orthodox full-back may in the long run count against him, but Clauss is demonstrably effective going forward – usual France right-back options Benjamin Pavard and Leo Dubois aren't, and that may be his 'in'.

 

Bremer (Brazil) – 24, centre-back, Torino

Playing in a generally poor team can go one of two ways for a centre-back: you're either considered a big part of the problem, or you thrive because you're given more opportunities to show your strengths.

For Bremer in a Torino team that have finished 16th and 17th in the past two seasons, it's definitely been the latter.

The 24-year-old has reportedly attracted the interest of numerous Premier League clubs, with Liverpool seemingly the team that are most keen.

While he's not a particularly great progressor of the ball, his 4.9 passes into the final third per 90 minutes since the start of last season being almost half the figures of the highest-ranking Serie A defenders, Bremer is a reliable centre-back first and foremost.

His four clearances per game is up there with the best (only one player averages more than 4.7), while Bremer's positional sense is highlighted by 2.6 interceptions every 90 minutes, a figure bettered by only five defenders (min. 1,000 minutes played since 2020-21 started).

Similarly, the centre-back wins 3.2 aerial duels per 90 minutes, which again is the sixth-highest among that group of defenders.

Brazil don't have outstanding depth at centre-back, all the more reason why Bremer is in with a shot – a move to Liverpool or another 'giant' would only help his cause.

Sven Botman (Netherlands) – 21, centre-back, Lille

Ball-playing centre-backs grow on trees in the Netherlands, or so you'd think. Botman is another off the very reliable production line, having come through the esteemed ranks at Ajax.

Lille signed him for roughly €9million in July 2020 after he enjoyed a promising loan spell with Heerenveen, and he went on to play in all but one Ligue 1 match as Les Dogues won the title.

Life's been a little tougher for Lille this term following the loss of coach Christophe Galtier to Nice, but Botman remains a key player and retains a fine reputation from 2020-21.

Since the start of last season, his 1,295 forward passes is the second most in the division and he ranks 11th for the most ball carries (635).

He's a progressive centre-back who offers plenty of forward-thinking but is also reliable when it comes to getting stuck in.

Over the same period, he's come out on top in 67.8 per cent of his duels, which is the second-best success rate among players to have engaged in at least 150.

Granted, the Netherlands' centre-back options are deep, but Botman's been in the squad before and there's little doubt he would be a good fit for them stylistically.

Angelino (Spain) – 24, left-back, RB Leipzig

It may surprise a few people to learn Angelino has never played for Spain. In fact, he's never even received a call-up to the senior side.

Let's not forget, Spain are blessed with a lot of quality in left-back and wing-back roles. Currently, Jordi Alba, Marcos Alonso, Jose Gaya and Sergio Reguilon are the favoured options, but Angelino is arguably in better form than any of them.

All five players are probably at their best as wing-backs rather than full-backs, and Luis Enrique's current system does allow for such players, which is another reason for Angelino's suitability. Then it comes down to effectiveness on the pitch.

Since the start of last season, in league competition Angelino tops a host of attacking metrics among the aforementioned players. He creates 2.2 chances per 90 minutes on average, with Alonso and Alba next on 1.6.

While Angelino's 0.16 assists every 90 minutes is lower than Alba's 0.22, the Leipzig man is seemingly being let down by poor finishing as his expected assists each game is 0.31 – again, this is the highest.

On a per-90-minute basis, Angelino creates the most chances from open play (1.6), plays the most crosses (5.5) and passes into the box (9.9) most frequently among this group.

Of course, this is partly explained by him playing slightly further forward than his counterparts, but Spain spend most of the time on the ball anyway – having someone as effective as Angelino in attack must be a consideration for Luis Enrique.

 

Riqui Puig (Spain) – 22, midfielder, Barcelona

It feels like Puig has been around for a long time, because even before he was around the first-team squad, Barca fans were singing his praises.

He had been considered as potentially their next legendary midfielder, such was his blend of technical excellence and fine passing skills, two staples of Barca's La Masia academy.

But it's not quite worked out that way.

In the past three seasons, he's only played more than 300 minutes over the course of a LaLiga campaign once, under Quique Setien in 2019-20. While he did feature in 14 league games for Ronald Koeman last term, that amounted to 283 minutes at an average of 20.2 mins in each appearance, and that did not improve this term prior to the Dutchman's sacking.

So, why is he even on this list?

Well, as much as anything because his progress will be intriguing to watch once again now that Xavi is at the helm. If there's anyone who can appreciate Puig's qualities, it'll surely be him.

Christopher Nkunku (France) – 24, midfielder, RB Leipzig

While Nkunku has generally been considered a versatile central midfielder for much of his career, he's excelled in a slightly different role since Jesse Marsch's introduction as Leipzig coach.

He's operated more from the flanks and is getting into the opposition's penalty area with greater frequency, his touches in the box up from 5.2 per 90 minutes to 7.7 this season.

As such, he's getting more shots away in the area (2.2 every 90 minutes, up from 1.7) and that's unsurprisingly led to an increased xG average of 0.45 each game.

He's already got 11 goals across all competitions, four more than he managed in 2020-21, suggesting the change in role is paying dividends, though he remains an able option in the middle such is his quality on the ball and ability to break forward.

In each of the past two seasons, Nkunku didn't manage to start more than 21 league games, but he's already on 11 this term. He's maturing and seemingly found his niche – now all he needs is that elusive first call-up.

 

Alan Velasco (Argentina) – 19, winger, Independiente

Lionel Scaloni has restored a significant amount of respect for Argentina's national team, guiding them to Copa America success earlier this year – that was their first international title at senior level in 28 years.

During his three years in charge, Scaloni has used 75 different players in matches, which shows both the wealth of options he has but also how willing he is to give individuals a chance.

In attack is arguably where Argentina's depth is greatest, but Independiente talent Velasco is surely one of the likeliest to earn a first cap over the next 12 months.

A positive and direct left-winger who likes to cut inside onto his right foot, Velasco has been enjoying something of a breakthrough season in Argentina's Primera Division, particularly during the second stage.

 

He has five goal involvements (one goal, four assists) since mid-July, with no one in the division managing to set up more than five in the entire year, and he has unsurprisingly become a bit of a target for opponents, as highlighted by his 2.9 fouls suffered every 90 minutes being the third-most among players with at least five appearances.

But that doesn't deter him. His 41 chances created is the third highest in the division, and the most among under-21 players, while his 91 dribbles completed and 4.8 per 90 minutes are both league highs.

Velasco also works hard off the ball, making 47 recoveries in the opposition's half, which is fifth among all players. The teenager is a big talent who also boasts strong work ethic – Scaloni will surely have him earmarked as one to watch.

Cade Cowell (United States) – 18, forward, San Jose Earthquakes

There aren't many countries in the world producing more exciting young talent than the United States at the moment, with their squads for the next few World Cups shaping up to be very promising.

While 2022 will probably come too soon for Cowell – arguably the wildcard of this list – he certainly shouldn't be written off, given he has already spent time training with the senior squad before.

A dynamic, quick and strong attacker who play out wide as well, Cowell is the third-youngest player in MLS history to reach 50 appearances, having reached that landmark at 18 years and 16 days old. Only Freddy Adu (16y, 2m, 25d) and Alphonso Davies (17y, 7m) got there quicker.

 

This season, despite only starting for 14 of his 33 MLS appearances, Cowell has amassed 11 goal involvements (five goals, six assists), which only Jesus Ferreira (17 – 8g, 9a) and Ricardo Pepi (16 – 13g, 3a) can better among under-21 players.

There's no mistaking Cowell is very much a rough diamond. He doesn't create a huge amount of chances (1.3 per 90 mins), his duels (32.2 per cent) and dribble (47.6 per cent) success rates aren't great, but he's young and raw. Improvements here should come naturally, and a big 2022 might just propel him into a national side that's not afraid to give youngsters a chance.

 

Amine Gouiri (France) – 21, forward, Nice

If there's one team in international football that would be the toughest to break into as a forward, it's probably France, but Gouiri looks special.

It now looks utterly astonishing that Nice managed to get him for as little as an initial €7million from Lyon in 2020, and the versatile forward – who is comfortable on the left or through the middle – is enjoying the kind of consistency not always associated with young players.

The 2020-21 season was his first as a regular starter in top-flight football and he went on to score a highly respectable 12 goals. While that failed to match his 14.6 expected goals (xG), perhaps showing a degree of inexperience, he did also lay on seven assists.

 

Once again, Gouiri's goals haul of six is a little behind his xG (8.1), suggesting a hint of wastefulness, but only three players are providing greater service than him, with his 3.3 expected assists (xA) ranking high.

Technically, Gouiri is exceptional and explosive, and this undoubtedly helps him create openings and space in the final third, with his combined average of 0.97 expected goals and assists every 90 minutes this season the second-highest in Ligue 1.

Gouiri is too good to never play for France – it's only a matter of time until he gets the call-up, and if he carries on his current trajectory for the next 12 months, Qatar will beckon.

 

Matias Arezo (Uruguay) – 18, forward, River Plate (URU)

Uruguay has produced some truly great strikers down the years. After more of a barren spell in that regard since Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez came through, there is once again a cause for optimism with Darwin Nunez, Agustin Alvarez and, arguably chief among them, Arezo.

The teenager turns 19 this November, so he's still got lots to learn and much room for growth, but the early signs are hugely promising – his stocky appearance, powerful style of play and feistiness (13 yellow cards over 2020 and 2021) have earned him the nickname 'Buffalo', and he's already a reliable source of goals despite his youth.

Arezo scored 13 times in 35 Uruguayan Primera appearances last term – he's matched that haul from 26 outings this year. For comparison's sake, Suarez got 10 in 27 in his first full season in the division with Nacional, while Cavani recorded nine in 25 appearances for Danubio before moving to Europe.

Qatar 2022 will almost certainly be the last World Cup for Suarez and Cavani if Uruguay make it, so they are likely to be involved – but otherwise, La Celeste's forward options are up in the air.

Arezo has been coping well in the physical competitiveness of South America's domestic football and must be in with a great shout of forcing his way into contention for the mission to Qatar.

Argentina qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, despite playing out a goalless draw with CONMEBOL rivals Brazil.

Lionel Messi returned to the line-up but he was unable to inspire Argentina, who played out a stalemate against Qatar-bound Brazil in San Juan on Tuesday.

That underwhelming performance left Copa America champions Argentina waiting to discover their World Cup fate.

Argentina only had to wait less than an hour as 10-man Chile lost 2-0 at home to Ecuador, sealing La Albiceleste's qualification after Colombia and Uruguay also failed to win.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina – riding a 27-game unbeaten streak – are second in the CONMEBOL standings with five matches remaining, six points behind leaders Brazil and six clear of third-placed Ecuador.

Argentina and Brazil have both played a game less following September's qualifier in Sao Paulo, which was sensationally abandoned after Scaloni's men left the field as Brazilian health officials tried to detain visiting players due to coronavirus regulations.

Having ended their 28-year wait for silverware via July's Copa America, Messi's Argentina will now look to conquer the World Cup.

Two-time champions Argentina – eliminated in the round of 16 at Russia 2018 – have not won the World Cup since Diego Maradona inspired the country to 1986 glory, though they reached the final in 2014.

Argentina are on the cusp of World Cup qualification after extending their unbeaten streak to 26 games by edging Uruguay 1-0.

Angel Di Maria was the difference away to rivals Uruguay, his sublime seventh-minute strike lifting second-placed Argentina to victory on Friday.

Argentina – who tied their CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying record after going eight matches unbeaten on the road – are one win away from booking their spot at Qatar 2022 heading into Tuesday's showdown against Brazil.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina defeated Uruguay 3-0 during last month's international window, after La Celeste failed to make the most of their chances against the Copa America champions.

It was a similar story on home soil in Montevideo, where Uruguay lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, despite Luis Suarez's best efforts.

With Lionel Messi on the bench, Di Maria wore the captain's armband and Argentina's stand-in skipper broke the deadlock in the seventh minute.

Giovani Lo Celso won possession and laid the ball to Di Maria, who curled a stunning shot into the top corner of the net.

Uruguay continued to press numbers forward and they had a chance to restore parity approaching half-time after Matias Vecino's brilliant turn created space for a shot, however it was easily dealt with by Emiliano Martinez.

Martinez was left scrambling as Facundo Torres' tricky cross almost looped over the Argentina goalkeeper before he palmed it behind for a corner in the 63rd minute.

As Uruguay pushed forward in search of an equaliser, it created more space for Argentina to attack and the visitors engineered a couple of decent openings before Messi was introduced off the bench during the closing stages.

With the minutes ticking down, Agustin Alvarez headed just over the bar for Uruguay, while Martinez almost saw the ball slip through his legs and into the net as the hosts' World Cup hopes remain in the balance.

Raphinha declared it would be difficult to top the euphoria he felt after scoring twice in Brazil's 4-1 win over Uruguay in World Cup qualifying.

The Leeds United forward made his first start for the Selecao one to remember, netting the second and third goals of a clinical victory.

Neymar and Gabriel Barbosa also got on the scoresheet in Manaus, with Uruguay's reply coming from Luis Suarez.

Raphinha said: "Tonight will be hard to beat, it will be difficult to forget tonight, it never had to end.

"I'll go back and be focused on what made me get here, the good work in Leeds, I'll do my job well to come back other times.

"I don't think there's any way to explain the happiness I'm feeling, this match with the goals and the victory couldn't have been more striking for me."

Quoted in Globo, Raphinha added: "I'm making my childhood dream come true, not only to wear the national team's shirt, but also to represent the national team. Being able to help with goals is very gratifying."

 

Raphinha has a close family association to Brazil great Ronaldinho and was asked what he thought the former Barcelona and Milan star would have made of his impressive display.

"[He would] just congratulate me for the match, not only him but other people," said Raphinha. "The most important thing is that I'm managing to represent the community I came from, my family and friends.

"I'm from Restinga, from Porto Alegre. It is where [former Brazil international] Tinga came from and where there is a lot of lost talent, thank God I'm managing to represent the community."

Raphinha became the first Leeds United player to score for Brazil, and the 24-year-old admitted it helped to have Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar as a team-mate, to guide him through such a game.

"Playing with Ney is very easy. I'm a big fan," Raphinha said. "I'm very inspired by him, in his way of playing, in his way of attacking his opponent. I watch many videos of him. To be playing with him is a dream come true."

Brazil returned to winning ways and continued on their path to Qatar 2022 as Neymar and Raphinha dazzled in a 4-1 World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay on Thursday.

The Selecao, whose perfect qualifying record ended with Sunday's 0-0 draw in Colombia, raced to a two-goal lead within 18 minutes against a ragged Uruguay side via strikes from Neymar and Raphinha, making his first international start.

Raphinha doubled his account in the 58th minute as Brazil dominated La Celeste, with Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera prevented the score from being uglier in Manaus.

Luis Suarez's 77th minute free-kick meant Brazil, who had gone six qualifiers without conceding a goal and nine in home World Cup qualifying games, have conceded twice in their past three before Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa's rounded out the scoring four minutes from time.

Neymar netted in the 10th minute, chesting down Fred's lofted ball into the box, the superstar forward getting around Muslera and drilling home from a sharp angle past Sebastian Coates on the line.

Raphinha doubled Brazil's advantage, firing in after Neymar's shot deflected off Diego Godin and Muslera into his path to become the first Leeds United player to score for the South American giants.

Brazil should have had a third in the 34th minute when Neymar and Raphinha both took a touch too many inside the box, failing to shoot.

Muslera kept Uruguay in the game after the interval, denying Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus twice in quick succession, along with Raphinha.

Edinson Cavani, who started alongside Uruguay's all-time leading scorer Suarez, had a goal disallowed for a clear offside in the 56th minute before Brazil added a third.

Raphinha grabbed his second, capping off a swift counter-attack by firing in off the post from Neymar's release approaching the hour.

Muslera saved well to thwart substitute Barbosa twice, before Suarez rifled in a free-kick into the bottom corner for a consolation goal – his 65th international strike.

Barbosa got his goal after VAR consultation, heading in from Neymar's cross to make it two goals in his last three international appearances.

Barcelona are awaiting news on the extent of the hamstring problem sustained by Ronald Araujo while away on international duty with Uruguay.

The 22-year-old was injured during the second half of his national side's 3-0 loss to Argentina on Sunday and has been ruled out of Thursday's World Cup qualifier with Brazil.

Barcelona confirmed on Tuesday that Araujo, who has made 48 appearances for the club in total since his debut in October 2019, will now return to Catalonia to undergo further tests.

Araujo has appeared in all nine of Barca's games this season – seven in LaLiga and two in the Champions League – totalling 615 minutes on the field.

Only Marc-Andre ter Stegen (630), Frenkie de Jong (676), Sergio Busquets (734) and Memphis Depay (809) have featured more regularly under Ronald Koeman this term.

Araujo's passing accuracy of 93.59 per cent is the second-best of any defender to have played at least six times in LaLiga this term, behind Real Madrid's Nacho (93.82).

Koeman's side face Valencia on their return to LaLiga action on Sunday and have a huge showdown with Real Madrid to come the following week, with a Champions League tie against Dynamo Kiev sandwiched in between. 

 

Lionel Messi believes Argentina are continuing to improve on the back of their Copa America success, but the superstar forward was grateful to Emiliano Martinez for helping his side to victory against Uruguay.

Argentina's all-time leading scorer Messi was on the scoresheet alongside Rodrigo De Paul and Lautaro Martinez as the Albiceleste secured a 3-0 win in Sunday's World Cup qualifier to move within six points of group leaders Brazil.

Lionel Scaloni's men are now unbeaten in 24 games in all competitions, a run that includes a 1-0 win over Brazil in July's Copa America final and 10 games without defeat in their qualifying campaign on the road to Qatar 2022.

However, it may have been a different story against Uruguay had Emiliano Martinez not produced two big saves to keep out Luis Suarez with the game all square, the Aston Villa man going on to make six stops in total at El Monumental.

And Messi singled out the goalkeeper for particular praise after his side returned to winning ways on the back of Thursday's goalless draw with Paraguay.

"He is fundamental for us," Messi said. "When the pressure is on, he always responds. He did that again today. We know we have one of the best goalkeepers in the world and we are making the most of it. 

"Uruguay had clear opportunities to score, even though we were in control. That's the sort of team they are. They are able to create danger out of nothing."

 

Argentina are now unbeaten at home under Scaloni in seven games in all competitions and have yet to lose at home to Uruguay in World Cup qualifying in six matches, winning the last five of those.

They are on the verge of booking a place at Qatar 2022 and Messi, whose six goals is level with Neymar and behind Bolivia's Moreno Martinez (eight) in the CONMEBOL top-scorers chart, is pleased with the strides being taken by his side.

"I think we are improving a lot in terms of the way we are playing and the way we are keeping possession," he said. 

"We knew the results of the other qualifiers and that we needed to take six points from our next two home games. The fans here are great and it is beautiful to play here."

Argentina conclude their triple-header of October qualifiers with a home match against Peru on Thursday, before travelling to Uruguay on their return to action next month.

Lionel Messi added to his record international tally as Argentina eased past rivals Uruguay 3-0 in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.

Messi – who eclipsed Brazil great Pele as the all-time leading scorer for a South American nation during the previous international break – scored his 80th goal in an Argentina jersey on Sunday.

Argentina's all-time leading goalscorer saw his attempted outside-of-the-boot pass find the back of the net in the 38th minute before Rodrigo de Paul doubled the lead six minutes later, while Lautaro Martinez sealed the victory in the 62nd minute.

Lionel Scaloni's Argentina remain unbeaten through 10 qualifiers on the road to Qatar 2022 – six points behind leaders Brazil as they extended their undefeated run to 24 games across all competitions.

Uruguay entered the match without a win against Argentina since 2013, while La Albiceleste had never lost a home World Cup qualifier to La Celeste amid a run of five consecutive victories.

But Uruguay made a bright start in Buenos Aires, where talisman Luis Suarez was in the thick of the action.

Suarez and Uruguay were unfortunate to not score at least twice in the first half, with Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez proving an unbeatable object.

Martinez thwarted Suarez twice with two big saves, while the latter saw his acrobatic volley cannon off the post on the half-hour mark.

Argentina went close to breaking the deadlock in the 33rd minute following a swift counter-attack, however, Giovani Lo Celso's effort struck the crossbar.

The opener did come via Messi, albeit in fortuitous circumstances, after his attempted pass ended up in the back of the net seven minutes prior to half-time.

Argentina took a 2-0 lead into the interval when De Paul tucked away a rebound a minute before the break.

Uruguay introduced Edinson Cavani and Darwin Nunez at half-time in attempt to spark a comeback but Argentina could not be stopped as space opened up.

Lautaro Martinez – back in the starting line-up – made it 3-0 just past the hour after finding himself unmarked at the back post following De Paul's low ball across the six-yard box.

Argentina almost had a fourth with 22 minutes remaining, however, Fernando Muslera got down well to save Joaquin Correa's close-range shot and the Uruguay goalkeeper was on hand again to thwart Angel Di Maria six minutes later.

What does it mean? No stopping Scaloni's men

Bouncing back from their goalless draw away to Paraguay last time out, Copa America champions Argentina have not lost since 2019.

Magical Messi

Even when Messi assists, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner scores. He has scored four goals in his last three games for Argentina. Messi now has six goals during this World Cup qualifying campaign, level with Brazil's Neymar and two behind leading scorer Moreno Martinez of Bolivia.

Uruguay's drought continues

Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay are still searching for their first World Cup qualifying win away to Argentina. Despite boasting Suarez, Cavani and Nunez, Uruguay have now failed to score in back-to-back games while they have only managed one from their past three. In total, Uruguay have scored 13 goals and conceded as many on the roar to Qatar 2022.

What's next?

Argentina will conclude this international window with the visit of Peru on Thursday as Uruguay travel to Brazil on the same day.

Luis Suarez will not feature for Uruguay in September's World Cup qualifiers after suffering a knee injury against Villarreal on Sunday.

Suarez started for the first time of the new season for Atletico Madrid and equalised for Diego Simeone's men to record his eighth goal involvement in 13 games against Villarreal.

However, the Atletico forward was forced off 14 minutes later after appearing to have discomfort in his left knee.

Following scans in Spain, Atletico have found a moderate swelling in Suarez's knee and informed Uruguay that the 34-year-old will not be available for the World Cup qualifiers against Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

The former Barcelona forward is expected to undergo further treatment throughout the week, though it remains unclear whether he will be fit enough to feature against Espanyol on September 12.

Fortunately for the reigning LaLiga champions, they acquired Matheus Cunha in late August and Angel Correa is in fine form, scoring three in his first three games of 2021-22.

Uruguay, though, have not been so lucky. Suarez's injury further compounds Oscar Tabarez's problems as he is left without two strikers for the qualifiers, Edinson Cavani his other absentee.

Manchester United striker Cavani's absence was confirmed on Monday, too, as Uruguay announced he would not be travelling to South America amid issues over quarantining on his return to the United Kingdom.

Uruguay face Colombia in the Copa America quarter-finals in Brasilia on Saturday buoyed by recent form that could see them challenge for the trophy again.

La Celeste are the most successful side in the competition's history with 15 wins but their last came 10 years ago when they beat Paraguay in the final in Buenos Aires.

Their 2021 campaign began inauspiciously with defeat to Argentina and a draw with Chile, but consecutive wins over Bolivia and Paraguay secured their place in the quarter-finals.

They may only have scored once through Edinson Cavani's first-half penalty, but Oscar Tabarez's men fired in 18 shots in their previous game and 22 in the win over Bolivia. Those are the most they have attempted against South American sides in this competition since they lifted the trophy a decade ago.

Uruguay are also on a run of consecutive victories at the same finals for the first time since 2011 and are beginning to look a far more confident side than the one that scored only once in five competitive games from November 2020 until June 21 this year.

By contrast, Colombia have failed to build on their opening win over Ecuador. A disappointing stalemate with Venezuela was followed by a 2-1 defeat to Peru, before they then lost to Brazil via the same scoreline after a late Casemiro winner settled a controversial clash in Rio de Janeiro.

Their previous meeting with Uruguay at this tournament was in the third-place play-off in 2004, in which they lost 2-1. Prior to that, their last victory over these opponents was in September 1975, when they won the first leg of their semi-final tie 3-0.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uruguay – Edinson Cavani

With two goals in two games, Cavani is the primary reason Uruguay have reached this stage and he is likely to be pivotal to their hopes of progressing further.

The Manchester United striker needs one goal to make this his most productive Copa America campaign.

Colombia – Yerry Mina

If Colombia are to keep Uruguay's attack quiet, they will need an imperious performance from centre-back Yerry Mina.

The Everton man has won 20 aerial duels at this year's finals, the most of any player.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Uruguay have registered four wins, one draw and one defeat in their previous six meetings with Colombia at the Copa America.
- This will be the second quarter-final meeting between these sides in this competition. The previous clash was in 1993: after a 1-1 draw, Los Cafeteros advanced to the next round on penalties.
- Uruguay have lost only one of their past nine games at the Copa America (W5 D3). They have two consecutive victories, something they have not achieved in the same edition of the tournament since 2011, when they ended up becoming champions.
- Uruguay and Paraguay are the only teams that have not conceded goals in the second half of their matches at this year's Copa America.

Edinson Cavani's 21st-minute penalty lifted Uruguay into second spot in Group A and booked a quarter-final date with Colombia after a 1-0 win over Paraguay at the Copa America on Monday.

In the final group game, Manchester United forward Cavani's goal moved Uruguay up from fourth to second position, avoiding a last-16 meeting with hosts and defending champions Brazil.

Paraguay came into the contest hoping to claim their first Copa win against Uruguay since 1947, with an outside chance of topping Group A, but instead slipped to third and will next face Peru.

To make matters worse for La Albirroja, influential Paraguay midfielder Miguel Almiron limped off, placing his quarter-final availability in doubt.

Uruguay needed to avoid defeat to ensure they would not face Group B winners Brazil in the quarters and started with intent as Cavani headed wide in the third minute, while team-mate Giorgian De Arrascaeta grazed the post moments later.

La Celeste won a penalty following a clumsy challenge from Angel Romero as Cavani emphatically hammered the spot-kick past Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva.

Uruguay continued to dominate as Nicolas De La Cruz went on a superb run, beating two opponents, before laying off for Cavani, whose dangerous cutback across goal was cleared by Omar Alderete.

Almiron went off injured on the half-hour mark, before Uruguay thought they had a second via Matias Vecino, although it was disallowed with Cavani offside in the build-up.

Paraguay had a goal disallowed early in the second half too, when an offside Oscar Romero nodded home.

Luis Suarez replaced Cavani in the 68th minute and should have made it 2-0 when he broke clear alongside Rodrigo Bentancur but the pair got their wires crossed.

Paraguay have not defeated Uruguay at the Copa America since 1947, but La Albirroja have momentum entering Monday's final group-stage game in Rio. 

While Uruguay have laboured to find their form in the tournament, Paraguay have taken six points from the first three Group A matches. 

They defeated Chile 2-0 on Thursday to confirm their place in the quarter-finals, three days after Uruguay needed an own goal by Arturo Vidal to salvage a 1-1 draw with La Roja. 

Coupled with a tournament-opening defeat of Bolivia, Paraguay will be feeling confident about their chances to earn a long-awaited victory.

Head coach Eduardo Berizzo said he expects the game to unfold along similar lines as the sides' scoreless draw in World Cup qualifying in Montevideo earlier this month. 

"Uruguay is tough, difficult, we faced each other recently in the qualifying rounds, it was very physical and tactical and surely the same awaits us," he said. "We will go out to win as we always do." 

La Celeste broke a five-game winless streak with a 2-0 defeat of Bolivia in their previous match, with Edinson Cavani breaking through for his first international goal since Uruguay's most recent victory against Colombia in November. 

With qualification for the knockout phase ensured, Uruguay will hope to gain their footing against a side they have dominated for decades. 

Uruguay are unbeaten in 15 Copa America games (W9 D6) against Paraguay dating to that long-forgotten La Albirroja triumph 74 years ago. 

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uruguay – Luis Suarez

Suarez is responsible for five of Uruguay's 12 shots on target in the tournament, a sign that he may be close to breaking his five-game international scoring drought. 

Beyond that stretch, the Atletico striker has not scored in the run of play for his country since a November 2019 friendly draw with Argentina. His four goals in World Cup qualifying last fall each came from the spot. 

Paraguay –​ Miguel Almiron

The Newcastle man had a hand in both goals against Chile, assisting on Braian Samudio's 33rd-minute opener and scoring from the spot in the second half. 

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- After their last win against Bolivia, Uruguay broke a run of three winless games in Copa America (D2 L1). They also scored two goals after scoring just once in each of the previous four (W1 D2 L1).
- After 11 winless games in Copa America (D6 L5), Paraguay won two of their last three games losing just against Argentina (1-0).
- Paraguay are the team with the higher shooting average in the current Copa America (17). The Albirroja also have the highest tally in a single game in the competition: 34 shots against Bolivia. 

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.

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