The Uruguayan national team coach, Oscar Tabárez, was confident but aware of the difficulties ahead when he spoke on Monday about what he expects from his team in the Copa América-2021, in which Celeste will debut on Friday against the Argentina, in Group A.
“The expectation is for a good tournament. Any situation that arises, let’s face it, that’s what we say”, said the coach in a virtual press conference at the ‘Complejo Celeste’ Training Center, on the outskirts of Montevideo.
“We are also confident that we will be able to do what we are proposing. We are not going for a walk or to be champions with a ten-point advantage”, said the commander of the team that has the most titles in the history of the competition (15), ahead of Argentina (14) and Brazil (9).
The ‘Maestro’ said that the days since the last double round of the South American qualifiers for the Qatar-2022 World Cup, in which Uruguay left a pale image after two goalless draws against Paraguay and Venezuela, had been used to distance “mentally and momentarily from what happened in the qualifiers” and focus on the Copa America.
“These days were to reinforce concepts”, he said, before saying he was satisfied with the work done so far.
The 74-year-old coach, who has been in his second phase at Celeste for 15 years without interruption, said that although “certain powers” such as Brazil and Argentina have strengthened in South American football, “the parity of forces is what stands out”.
“Just look at the last round of the Qualifiers: the results speak for it,” he said.
As for the Argentine national team, Uruguay’s first opponent in Group A, Tabárez described them as “a very good team” with “very good individuals”, but refused to discern between their strengths and weaknesses.
“I’ve seen good things in defense and others not, like all the teams, except Brazil, which has the best defense in South America at the moment,” he said.
The coach was also asked about the controversy that, after the exclusions of Colombia and Argentina, the original hosts of the Copa America 2021, the new headquarters became Brazil, one of the countries with the highest number of infections and deaths from covid.
“We have to go and I won’t talk about things that have already been judged (…) We belong to one of the participating federations, we have our contracts, we knew there was going to be a Copa America (…) It’s not time to go back to the issues that have already been resolved ,” he stated.
“If not in Brazil, where would it be? In Uruguay? We’re worse off than ever since the pandemic started. In none of the South American countries are we free to become infected, said the coach.
The 47th edition of Copa América may be the last of a large part of the generation that has achieved the greatest achievements with Celeste in the last 11 years.
Among them are strikers Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, both 34 years old, top scorers in the history of the Uruguayan national team with 63 and 51 goals, respectively.
However, Cavani assured on Monday that the prospect of this being his last Copa America does not affect him as much.
“The things in life, the internships, pass away. One goes and one comes. It’s always like that. It doesn’t generate anything special for me,” he said at a press conference.
Even so, he acknowledged that he would like to “be able to do something good with the national team at this last ball”, using the title of a documentary about former basketball player Michael Jordan (‘The Last Dance’) to which the ‘ Maestro’ Tabárez alluded to in reference to the moment reeking of farewell.
On the other hand, when asked about his statements against the Copa America dispute in the middle of the pandemic, Cavani admitted that “from the first moment” he thought that “it would have been better to stop”, but “since it was known that it was going to be played, the message is that you have to accept it and move on.”
“Trying to take care of ourselves, trying to do the best we can and competing, there’s no other choice.”