|Liverpool striker Luis Suarez opened the scoring to set Uruguay on their way to a record 15th title [Reuters]|
Uruguay won the Copa America for a record 15th time after beating Paraguay 3-0 with two goals by Diego Forlan and another from Luis Suarez.
Suarez scored in the 12th minute during Sunday’s final in Buenos Aires, while Forlan hit the target in the 42nd and in the final minute of the game.
The victory gave Uruguay their first Copa America title since 1995, and made them the most successful side in the South American tournament.
The small country of 3.5 million also reached the World Cup semi-finals a year ago, surpassing the performance of continental powers Brazil and Argentina.
Suarez gave Uruguay the lead. Receiving a pass in the area, the Liverpool forward beat defender Dario Veron to score from a deflected left-footed shot that went in off the far post behind keeper Justo Villar.
Uruguay could have led in the second minute, when Villar stopped Diego Lugano’s point-blank header.
Forlan – voted the best player at last year’s World Cup – made it 2-0 by lashing a left-footed shot from 12 metres that left Villar flat-footed. He was set up after teammate Egidio Arevalo Rios had stolen the ball in midfield.
The Atletico Madrid striker had not scored in his 12 previous matches for the national team.
Sebastian Eguren almost made it 3-0 in the 74th, foiled when Villar stuck out his left arm with the ball headed for the net.
Forlan notched the final goal in the 90th minute, taking a pass from Suarez and scoring into the far corner.
Paraguay, who won Copa America titles in 1979 and 1953, played without injured forward Roque Santa Cruz and winger Aureliano Torres.
Paraguay Coach Gerardo Martino and top assistant Jorge Pautasso were suspended from the match after being sent off for repeatedly arguing with the referee in Wednesday’s victory over Venezuela.
Martino, an Argentine, is seen as a leading contender to take over Argentina’s national team.
The Argentine federation was to meet on Monday and decide on the future of coach Sergio Batista, who is reported to be on the way out.
For their part, Argentina and Brazil were again upset in the quarter-finals of the Copa America. Uruguay ousted Argentina on penalties and Paraguay eliminated Brazil, also in a shootout.
Argentina have won the title 14 times, Brazil eight. Brazil had won four of the past five titles.
Meanwhile, in Uruguay, thousands celebrated while watching a huge screen outside the Montevideo city hall, shooting off flares, waving flags and singing.
With their conquering heroes expected back home late on Sunday night, they planned to keep partying well into the night in the streets of the capital.
A big crowd also watched in the Plaza San Martin in Buenos Aires, where Paraguayans in red-white-and-blue outnumbered the Uruguayan fans about three to one.