SPO_240628 COPA2-1719588209899
Uruguay forward Darwin Nunez handed over the captain's armband when Luis Suarez (right) brought in as a late substitute against Bolivia. Image Credit: Reuters

East Rutherford, New Jersey: Uruguay thrashed tournament minnows Bolivia 5-0 in their Group C encounter in New Jersey on Thursday to all but book their place in the Copa America quarter-finals.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Facundo Pellistri nodded home the opener in the eighth minute and Darwin Nunez doubled Uruguay’s lead just after the 20-minute mark, powering a left-footed shot past Bolivia keeper Guillermo Vizcarra to score in his seventh consecutive international match.

Maximiliano Araujo struck from close range to kill off the contest in the 77th minute before Federico Valverde made it 4-0 four minutes later.

Superior goal difference

Substitute Rodrigo Bentancur completed the rout by heading home the fifth in the 89th minute with his first touch.

Uruguay will progress as group winners if they avoid defeat by the United States in their final group game on Monday, while even defeat in that match would likely see them go through thanks to their superior goal difference.

A moment of madness from Timothy Weah left the USA’s campaign hanging by a thread as the hosts crashed to a shock 2-1 defeat to Panama.

Juventus winger Weah was sent off in the 18th minute after an off-the-ball clash with Panama’s Roderick Miller in a stormy Group C battle at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

SPO_240628 COPA-1719588205099
Referee Ivan barton shows the red card to US striker Tim Weah during the match against Panama on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Although Folarin Balogun fired the US into the lead four minutes after Weah’s dismissal, Panama’s extra man advantage ultimately took its toll and the Central Americans hit back with goals from Cesar Blackman and Jose Fajardo to seal victory.

The defeat means the United States will almost certainly have to win or draw against mighty Uruguay in their final group game next Monday to advance to the knockout rounds.

Decisive moment of the match

US coach Gregg Berhalter said after the defeat that Weah’s red card had been the decisive moment of the match, describing Weah’s actions as “silly.”

“The match-changing event is obviously the red card and it puts us in a tough spot but we expected that from them,” Berhalter said.

“I can’t fault the effort of the group, especially after going down a man. The guys dug in and we were close to coming out with a point. But it’s a shame, because there was more in this game, and a silly decision by Timmy leaves us short-handed.”

Bolivia, who have lost both games so far, have only a slim mathematical chance of avoiding a group-stage exit for the fourth time in a row.

SPO_240628 COPA1-1719588207025
Luis Suarez celebrates with teammates after Uruguay won the match against Bolivia. Image Credit: AFP

Missing one quality chance

On a night when Nunez scored his 13th international goal, Uruguay’s all-time leading scorer Luis Suarez was brought on as a late substitute and was immediately handed the captain’s armband.

Nunez had already missed one quality chance before Pellistri found the net in the eighth minute from a well-worked set piece.

Nunez doubled Uruguay’s advantage when he finished instinctively over the charging Viscarra’s right shoulder and inside the near post.

Uruguay eased off at the start of the second half, much to manager Marcelo Bielsa’s disgust, but it proved to be the calm before the storm.

Maximiliano Araujo added a third after getting on the end of Nicolas de la Cruz’s through ball before Uruguay scored twice more in the closing stages.