x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Diego Forlan urges Uruguay to focus on present

Striker tells his Uruguay teammates that their heroics at last year's World Cup count for nothing as they prepare for their opening match of the Copa America against Peru.

Diego Forlan, the striker, says confidence is running high in the Uruguay camp.
Diego Forlan, the striker, says confidence is running high in the Uruguay camp.

MENDOZA, ARGENTINA // After Argentina slipped up in their opening match against Bolivia, Uruguay will scent a chance to get one over on their neighbours as they meet unfancied Peru in today's Group C opener.

The Uruguayans, led by strikers Diego Forlan, whose goals helped them reach last summer's World Cup semi-finals, and Luis Suarez, who joined English Premier League club Liverpool for £22.8 million (Dh134.6m) in January, have won 14 continental titles, a record they share with Argentina.

While they have not won the Latin American championship since 1995, that is still two years more recently than Argentina themselves.

But their World Cup showing came on the back of runs to the semi-finals of the last two Copa tournaments.

Confidence is therefore running high before the match at the Estadio del Bicentenario in San Juan, with even Mano Menezes, the Brazil coach, making the sky blues his dark horse prediction.

Forlan said the players are mentally ready to go.

"We know we have plenty in our locker to win this event," said the Atletico Madrid frontman, whose goals in South Africa were instrumental in taking the Uruguayans so close to a first World Cup final since 1950 and also earned him the player of the tournament accolade.

"We think we can take on anyone. We just know we have a strong team and that if we perform to the best of our capabilities we can win games."

Mauricio Victorino, a defender with Brazil's Cruzeiro, insists that Uruguay have come to Argentina "to win the tournament, and we are on a par with those teams who are capable of doing so. We have a very competitive team".

Although Peru have slumped in recent years from the days when the likes of Teofilo Cubillas pulled the strings at the 1978 World Cup, Forlan said they are still dangerous because "they always play good football".

Paolo Guerrero, the Peru striker, has promised a close-fought affair and said: "Confidence is good and our attitude is also, so we will be well up for it against Uruguay."

Guerrero will be a key man for Peru, especially in the absences through injury of both Claudio Pizarro of Werder Bremen and Schalke's Jefferson Farfan.

Peru won the event in 1939 and 1975, but will start as outsiders in a group also containing Chile and Mexico, who face off, also at San Juan, this evening.