We’ve waited a full week for the best game of the 2019 Copa America, but on Thursday night in Porto Alegre we got it: Uruguay and Japan played a classic that ended in a draw with four goals, over 40 combined shot attempts and a goal for Barcelona’s Luis Suárez, who also hit the crossbar and missed some big chances in what was another impressive performance from El Pistolero.
The game started with Luis Suárez nearly scoring a goal from 60 yards and Shinji Okazaki missing a chance from the six-yard box in the first two minutes, so this looked like an amazing game from the very beginning. And it continued that way: both sides were bold and attacking, pressing from the front and creating a lot of chances.
Japan were especially impressive, changing personnel and formation and looking mighty dangerous on the counter. And that’s how they got in front when Koji Miyoshi received a pass in space, shifted the ball to his right foot and scored with a wonderful finish. Uruguay answered just seven minutes later when a penalty was awarded with help from VAR, and Luis Suárez equalized from the spot.
The two sides continued trading haymakers until the final whistle of the first period, and at halftime we had a potential classic in our hands if both teams kept up their intensity and attacking intent.
There was no way the second half could be better than the first, but somehow it was, at least at the start: the intensity was still sky-high, both teams were not afraid to attack and send bodies forward, and the chances kept coming and coming. Japan once again went in front thanks to a second goal by Miyoshi, but Uruguay equalized again just seven minutes later as José Giménez scored a header from a corner.
The final minutes were a free-for-all, with both teams exhausted and Japan needing the win to stay alive while Uruguay wanted a place in the quarterfinals with a game to spare. Defending was out the window, and both teams had real chances to score the winner, including a beautiful Suárez header that hit the crossbar and somehow didn’t go in.
Despite all the attempts and hard work, the winner didn’t come, and the best match of this year’s Copa América ended in a draw that is completely fair. Both teams were just too good to lose this one.
Uruguay: Muslera; Cáceres, Giménez, Godín, Laxalt (González); Nández (De Arrascaeta), Bentancur, Torreira, Lodeiro (Valverde); Suárez, Cavani
Goals: Suárez (pen. 32’), Giménez (66’)
Japan: Kawashima; Iwata (Tatsuta), Ueda, Tomiyasu, Sugioka; Miyoshi (Kubo), Shibasaki, Itakura, Nakajima; Okazaki, Abe (A. Ueda)
Goals: Miyoshi (25’, 59’)