Uruguay Copa America squad review: Can explosive Núñez and Suarez end the drought?

Uruguay have won a joint-record 15 Copa America titles, but are without this particular trophy since 2011. However, the inaugural world champions will arrive at the 2024 Copa America in their best form in recent years.

With Luis Suarez and Darwin Núñez providing a heady blend of experience and vigour, Uruguay are amongst the three main contenders to lift the Copa America. Bookmakers have Uruguay as third-favourites.

Luis Suarez and Darwin Núñez are key to the Uruguay Copa America squad
Luis Suarez and Darwin Núñez are key to the Uruguay Copa America squad – Photo by Icon Sport

Uruguay – key facts

Year founded: 1902

Nickname: La Celeste

Current FIFA ranking: 15

A recent friendly defeat to Ivory Coast saw Uruguay slip down the rankings a little, but stunning wins over Brazil and Argentina in World Cup qualifying have maintained their place in the top-15.

Highest FIFA ranking: 2

The year of 2012 saw Uruguay’s highest ever FIFA ranking, on the back of a fourth-place finish at the 2010 World Cup prior to their 2011 Copa America triumph.

Year of Copa America debut: 1916

Best Copa America performance: Winners (15 times)

Player to watch: Darwin Núñez

Full Uruguay Copa America squad

Marcelo Bielsa has named a diverse Uruguay squad, with a mix of players plying their trades in Europe, South and North America, seasoned internationals and up-and-comers.

‘El Loco' is one of football's great characters – Photo by Icon Sport

Goalkeepers:

  • Santiago Mele
  • Franco Israel
  • Sergio Rochet

Defenders:

  • Matías Viña
  • Ronald Araújo
  • Mathías Olivera
  • Guillermo Varela
  • Sebastián Cáceres
  • Lucas Olaza
  • Nicolás Marichal
  • Jose Maria Gimenez

Midfielders:

  • Rodrigo Bentancur
  • Federico Valverde
  • Nahitan Nández
  • Giorgian de Arrascaeta
  • Nicolás de la Cruz
  • Manuel Ugarte
  • Emiliano Martínez
  • Maximiliano Araújo

Attackers:

  • Luis Suárez
  • Brian Rodríguez
  • Darwin Núñez
  • Facundo Pellistri
  • Agustín Canobbio
  • Cristian Olivera
  • Brian Ocampo

Surprise inclusions in Uruguay Copa America squad

Luis Suárez

During Marcelo Bielsa’s radical overhaul of Uruguay, the famously eccentric Argentine has sidelined Uruguay's record scorer, Luis Suárez.

Yet, despite playing just 17 minutes in World Cup qualifying, Suarez has still made the Uruguay squad, likely for his experience and impact off the bench.

Emiliano Martínez

Though he will likely be overshadowed by another Emi Martinez at this tournament, Bielsa’s decision to call up 24-year-old Midtjylland midfielder Emiliano Martínez is a bold one.

The powerful midfielder has just two caps to his name, and comes in place of more experienced options like Lucas Torreira and Matias Vecino.

Nicolás de la Cruz has been superb in midfield – Photo by Icon Sport

In-form players for Uruguay

Nicolás de la Cruz

Versatile midfielder Nicolás de la Cruz has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the Bielsa revolution. 

The Flamengo midfielder has three goals and three assists in World Cup qualifying to date, including direct contributions against both of Uruguay's fellow Copa America frontrunners Brazil and Argentina.

Darwin Núñez

After a quiet end to the season, Liverpool’s number nine has much to prove. But despite losing his starting spot in the outgoing Jurgen Klopp's XI as a consequence, Darwin Núñez has been in fine form for Uruguay, placing him well to impress new Liverpool boss Arne Slot.

In 2026 World Cup qualifying, the striker has scored five and assisted two across six appearances, and leads the scoring charts at present. The 24-year-old also netted a hat-trick in La Celeste’s final warm-up game against Mexico.

Núñez will be Pellistri's target- Photo by Icon Sport

Uruguay Predicted Copa America XI

Marcelo Bielsa has generally favoured a 4-3-3 formation since taking over last year.

Between the posts, we expect Sergio Rochet to continue as Bielsa’s number one. Ahead of him will be one of the most fearsome centre-back partnerships at the tournament in Ronald Araújo and Jose Maria Gimenez. Energetic Cagliari midfielder Nahitan Nández will invert from right-back, and Mathías Olivera will provide overlaps from the left.

Bielsa has largely settled on a well-balanced midfield three of Federico Valverde, Manuel Ugarte and Nicolás de la Cruz.

Darwin Núñez is nailed-on to start as his nation’s central striker. Out wide, Manchester United’s forgotten man Facundo Pellistri will provide width and directness on the right, with Maximiliano Araújo cutting in to create.

Now, here’s how we anticipate El Loco will line Uruguay up in their Group C fixtures…

American winger Antonee Robinson's pace will pose problems on matchday three – Photo by Icon Sport

Uruguay vs Panama

(4-3-3) Rochet; Nández, Araújo, Gimenez, Olivera; Valverde, Bentancur, de la Cruz; Pellistri, Núñez, Araujo

We expect the front-footed Bielsa to come out all guns blazing against Panama in their opener. 

The Central American side will look to sit deep and frustrate La Celeste, meaning that Rodrigo Bentancur’s creativity may trump Ugarte’s steel in midfield.

Uruguay vs Bolivia

(4-3-3) Rochet; Nández, Araújo, Gimenez, Viña; Valverde, Ugarte, de Arrascaeta; Pellistri, Núñez, Olivera

Uruguay blew Bolivia away 3-0 in World Cup qualifying last year, and there is a good chance they will do the same here.

Bielsa’s football can be very high-impact, so we expect Viña, de Arrascaeta and Olivera to be rotated in for this one.

Uruguay vs USA

(4-3-3) Rochet; Nández, Araújo, Gimenez, Olivera; Valverde, Ugarte, de la Cruz; Pellistri, Núñez, Araujo

Without doubt, the USA are Uruguay’s toughest opponent, and this game will likely decide who finishes atop Group C.

With a devastating left side of a rejuvenated Cristian Pulisic and Antonee Robinson, the Americans are not be underestimated, and recently played out a 1-1 draw with Brazil.

Expect Uruguay to name their strongest side possible, perhaps with a match-winning cameo for Luis Suarez.


William Evans is a football and politics fanatic. A first-class graduate of UEA's Broadcast and Digital Journalism MA course, he also achieved a first class degree in politics and media studies during his time at UEA.