BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil (AP) — Uruguay started the Copa America in style, showing why it’s considered a top favorite for the South American title.
With Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez in top form, Uruguay earned a comfortable 4-0 win over 10-man Ecuador in its opening match on Sunday.
Cavani, Suarez and Nicolas Lodeiro scored in the first half, and an own-goal by Ecuadorean defender Arturo Mina after halftime sealed the victory for a dominant Uruguayan squad in the Group C match at the Mineirao Stadium.
“It was an important first step for us,” Cavani said. “We have to try to keep this momentum during the rest of the tournament.”
Uruguay played with an extra man from the 24th minute after Ecuador’s Jose Quintero was red-carded for elbowing Lodeiro during a ball dispute. Quintero was initially given a yellow card, but video review determined he deserved a red.
Uruguay was already in control when Quintero was sent off at the Mineirao, which held a small crowd of about 13,000 people.
Lodeiro opened the scoring in the sixth minute, controlling a pass from Suarez inside the area and lobbying the ball over a defender before finding the net.
“After the red card the game opened up and we dominated,” Lodeiro said. “It was an important opening victory. We have to keep going game by game, always trying to improve.”
Cavani had two close-range attempts saved by Ecuador goalkeeper Alexander Dominguez before finally scoring with a volley in the 33rd, then Suarez added to the lead after a corner kick in the 44th.
The fourth goal came when Mina as he tried to clear a ball crossed into the area in the 78th. The goal also had to be confirmed by video review.
Uruguay had two goals disallowed for offside, one in each half.
Ecuador finished with only on shot on goal, coming in the first minute of the match.
“They were better than us in every aspect,” Ecuador coach Hernan Dario Gomez said. “Uruguay is a great team, very experienced.”
Guest Japan and two-time defending champion Chile will play the other Group C match on Monday in Sao Paulo.
Uruguay is the Copa America’s most successful team with 15 titles, one more than Argentina. Its last Copa America title was in 2011.
Ecuador made it to the quarterfinals of the 2016 Copa America.
Uruguay next faces Japan on Thursday in Porto Alegre, while Ecuador takes on Chile in Salvador.
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