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Uruguay vs Panama predictions: Bielsa's boys to start Copa campaign in style
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Dan Fitch
Marcelo Bielsa has transformed the fortunes of a new-look Uruguay team
Marcelo Bielsa has transformed the fortunes of a new-look Uruguay team

- Uruguay have beaten Brazil and Argentina under Bielsa
- Panama have lost three of their last five games
- Recommended bet: Uruguay -2 on the 3-way handicap

Uruguay are hot-favourites to earn an opening victory when they take on Panama at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. 

Panama are representing CONCACAF at this expanded Copa America and it is the second time that they have participated in this tournament, having lost two of their three group games back in 2016. 

Team news

Bielsa is likely to field a 4-2-3-1 formation, spearheaded by the Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez.

Uruguay’s all-time record goalscorer Luis Suarez is an option from the bench, with the 37-year-old Inter Miami forward having been recalled to the squad. 

Panama are without their captain Anibal Godoy with a thigh injury, while Harold Cummings turned down the chance to replace the skipper, having stated that he could no longer perform at the required level.

The stats

These nations have met on five occasions, with Uruguay winning every time, scoring 15 goals and conceding only once. 

Uruguay have won seven of their 12 games under Bielsa, drawing three and losing twice. 

Panama have faced three teams in 2024 that will compete in the Copa America, with Mexico, Jamaica and Paraguay all defeating them. 

Uruguay forward Luis Suarez is now 37 and may be used as an impact sub at the Copa America
Uruguay forward Luis Suarez is now 37 and may be used as an impact sub at the Copa America


Uruguay are expected to go far in this tournament, having been tactically transformed since Bielsa’s appointment in 2023. 

As you would expect, La Celeste have adopted a high-intensity approach that sees them pressing aggressively under the veteran coach. 

Uruguay have a strong spine, with the likes of Jose Gimenez and Ronald Araujo lining up in defence, while Manuel Ugarte, Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde feature in midfield. 

They have kept clean sheets in five of their last six internationals, while Nunez is proving to be a lethal cutting edge in attack. 

The 24-year-old scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 friendly win over Mexico at the start of June. Nunez has 11 goals in 23 games for his country, with eight of those strikes coming in seven games under Bielsa. 

Like Uruguay, the Panamanians are also coached by a former Leeds United manager, with Thomas Christiansen having been in charge of the Central American nation since 2020. 

The Dane’s team excelled at the Gold Cup last summer, beating USA on penalties in the semis, en-route to a final that they lost to Mexico. 

Panama have played five times in 2024, winning their two World Cup qualifiers against teams ranked outside the world’s top 150, but losing on each of the three occasions when they have stepped up in class. 

Uruguay are playing at a higher level still and based on their most recent outing against Mexico, the South Americans should win this game by a decent margin. 

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