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Tabarez to build on World Cup success for Uruguay

Considered best after Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay pose a serious threat for the Copa America title.

Uruguay will be hoping to draw on their World Cup exploits to eclipse the traditional big two in the Copa America.

On the far side of the sea-like river estuary that helps to define Buenos Aires is the only Latin American country to reach the semi-finals in South Africa as Brazil and Argentina both lost in the quarter-finals.

Chile, Colombia and Paraguay are also real threats to win the South American title.

"We have to capitalise on our experience in the World Cup, correct what we have to, and be prepared," said Oscar Tabarez, the Uruguay coach who will field a similar team from South Africa, led by Diego Forlan, who was voted the best player in the tournament.

Hosts Argentina and Brazil are still the heavyweights in the Copa America, which starts today and runs until July 24. They have played in the last two finals, with Brazil winning both to capture four of the past five titles.

Argentina and Uruguay have each won the championship 14 times, with Brazil on eight titles. After that, nobody comes close. The dominance of the big three is hardly surprising since Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay have combined to win nine of the 19 World Cups.

"I would say it will be another final between Brazil and Argentina," Socrates, a former Brazil player, said. "This forecast is no surprise, but it's what everyone expects."

The Copa America is widely regarded as third most important international competition - behind the World Cup and European Championship. It also comes with a quirk. Two teams are invited as guests to round out the field to 12. This year it's Mexico and Costa Rica and both will be fielding young teams.

Japan were scheduled to play, but backed out after the deadly March 11 earthquake and tsunami to be replaced by Costa Rica.

"Because we are playing with youth players, it doesn't mean we will not play well," said Luis Fernando Tena, an assistant Mexico coach. "We have a good generation of young players, and we are going to compete and try to win the thing."

The final is set for River Plate's Monumental stadium. However, the venue could now be in doubt after riots on Sunday by River Plate hooligans following the club's relegation to the second division.

The Copa America dates from 1916 and has been graced by some of the greatest players in the game, including Pele and Diego Maradona.

The Argentine and Brazilian stars are household names: Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano, Javier Zanetti, Diego Milito for the hosts; Neymar, Robinho, Alexandre Pato, Elano and Dani Alves for Brazil.

Some of the stars from other countries don't need much more of an introduction. Forlan will team up with Edinson Cavani (Napoli) and Luis Suarez (Liverpool). Cavani was the second leading scorer in Serie A with 26 goals.

Chile have Alexis Sanchez, perhaps the most sought after player on the transfer market.

Colombia's Radamel Falcao scored 34 goals this season with FC Porto. Shortly after, coach Andre Villas-Boas moved to Chelsea. Falcao might be going with him.

"We go to the Copa America with the hope of being contenders, fighting for the top spot to return to Colombia the prestige that it deserves," Falcao said.

Paraguay reached the World Cup quarter-finals last year. Their top scorer is Argentina-born Lucas Barrios who plays for the German champions Borussia Dortmund.

"We're not going to the Copa America to just see what's going on," Gerardo Martino, the Paraguay coach, said. "We're looking to reach the final. We have to go to win it, like everyone else."

* Associated Press