Uruguay 5-0 Bolivia takeaways: Bielsa's side looks formidable ahead of facing USMNT

Early goals from Manchester United’s Facundo Pellestri and Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez got Uruguay off to a fast start against Bolivia and they didn’t look back, winning 5-0 to all but seal their place in the Copa America quarterfinals. Their final Group C match will come against the U.S. on Monday — a must-win occasion for the Americans after their loss to Panama.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men had more goals in this win over Bolivia than any other Copa America team has had across the entire tournament so far, which could spell trouble for the U.S.

The Athletic’s Melanie Anzidei and Thom Harris share their takeaways from the match…

Why was Uruguay playing in white and blue?

Uruguay debuted a new kit at MetLife Stadium: a white jersey, sky blue shorts and white socks, an unprecedented combination.


(Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

Why? Well, a team spokesman said there was no specific reason but Uruguay recently inked a new deal with Nike — just in time for Copa America, a departure from the team’s long-standing partnership with Puma. That contract ended in 2023, and Uruguay was without a sponsor until they signed with Nike in April. The team only released their kits a few days before the tournament began.



Ranking the best and worst Copa America home kits: a doctor bird, an Ecuador sash and ‘deep red wine

Between kits sponsors, the Uruguayan Football Association produced its kits in-house, with one version unveiled as the kit that Uruguay would wear at the 2024 Olympics in celebration of their 100th anniversary of winning gold in 1924. The only problem was the team failed to qualify.

Tonight’s kit was the first time Uruguay has worn a white shirt and blue shirt combination in its 122-year history, according to the FA.

Melanie Anzidei

How was Bolivia’s preparation impacted?

The Bolivian team seemed in low spirits ahead of Thursday. In pre-game press conferences the day before, head coach Antônio Carlos Zago spoke on how his team was ready to battle against a tournament favorite in Uruguay. He spoke humbly about how his team is slowly rebuilding, and acknowledged that any rebuild will take time.

Hours later, though, news broke of an attempted coup back home in Bolivia, with images of armored vehicles ramming the doors of the nation’s government palace making the rounds on social media and international news sites. The images coming out of La Paz raised alarms, and hours later the attempted coup reportedly failed. While players are physically far from Bolivia, and the team has not made any public statements on the situation that unfolded, a political crisis back home would add pressure or stress on any player. The result against Bolivia seemed to reflect that.

Melanie Anzidei

Darwin dominates again

Brilliant, bemusing, but always box-office viewing; Darwin Nunez was at it again.

In the first half alone, Uruguay’s unrelenting number 19 took seven shots. He grazed the post with a sensational header, smashed the crossbar with another. Missed a glaring one-on-one, before delightfully lifting a second over the goalkeeper.

Taking the second half into account, his total of 24 touches in the penalty area leaves him ten clear of any other player in the tournament. Twice, he took on three defenders on the box – twisting, turning, ducking left and right – before ending up on the floor.

darwin nunez 2024 all shots

It is sheer chaos, but it works. Such is Uruguay’s physical dominance in games such as these, where their tireless closing down suffocates teams without the technical quality to escape, that the 24-year-old is always close to the action. He can tear in-behind in a footrace, latch onto through balls and shoot, or he can lurk between central defenders, waiting for crosses into the box before flinging himself at the ball.

Nunez has now scored in seven straight games under Marcelo Bielsa, ten all in all. He might have had more at this Copa America; he certainly will before the tournament is out.

Thom Harris

How worried should the USMNT be about the threat of Uruguay?

The U.S. men’s national team is in trouble.

After a shocking loss to Panama in the second round, the host nation’s path out of the group stage is now murky at best. Though the U.S. can still advance with a loss to Uruguay, advancing then may entirely rely on how the Panama and Bolivia match concludes. It’s a far from ideal situation.

If we compare how Uruguay and the United States performed against Bolivia so far this tournament, La Celeste are clearly the more dominant team. Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez showed why he is one of the teams’ rising stars under Argentine manager Marcelo Bielsa. The team persistently and successfully penetrated Bolivia’s defensive line. They out-possessed Bolivia significantly, with their opponent rarely touching the ball.

By the time Uruguay had their third goal in the 77th minute off a brilliant give-and-go in the front of the net, Bolivia’s fate was already sealed.

The United States must do much better than how they played against Panama to stand a chance against Uruguay – and they must not make silly mistakes that will put them a player down so early in the match. A ten-man team has even less off a chance.

Melanie Anzidei

What did the managers say?

We’ll bring you post-match reaction from Uruguay manager Marcelo Bielsa and Bolivia’s Antonio Carlos Zago.

What’s next for the teams?

U.S. vs. Uruguay — Monday, July 1, 9:00 p.m. ET (Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO)

Bolivia vs. Panama — Monday, July 1, 9:00 p.m. ET (Inter & Co Stadium, Orlando, FL)



Who has qualified for Copa America knockout stage – and who is out?

Required reading

(Top photo: Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

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