PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (AP) — Copa America favorites Uruguay drew 2-2 with Japan on Thursday and delayed until the last round of the group stage its likely qualification to the tournament’s knockout phase.
Japan, which is playing a young team, was ahead twice in the match at the Arena do Gremio in Porto Alegre thanks to midfielder Koji Miyoshi, one of the seven changes the Asian team made after losing 4-0 to Chile in its opening match.
Miyoshi netted his first at 25 minutes, hitting the ball hard to the left of goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Luis Suarez leveled at 32 after a penalty kick awarded by video review following a foul by a Japanese defender.
Miyoshi added Japan’s second at 59 in a rebound after Muslera tried to block a cross from the left.
At 66 minutes, Uruguay drew with a header by Jose Gimenez after a corner kick.
Uruguay has four points in two matches and leads Group C.
Defending Copa America champion Chile can reach six points with a win over Ecuador on Friday.
Japan has one point, and Ecuador has none.
Uruguay and Chile play on Monday, the same day that Japan plays against Ecuador.
“I am not worried,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. “Do you know how many times I lived this in those 13 years (as Uruguay coach)? Japan was aggressive. They had fewer opportunities and scored twice. They played a great match.”
“They pressured us and didn’t let us play in the way we wanted,” the striker said.
Despite the result and a poorer performance than in the 4-0 win against Ecuador, Uruguay had the best chances to score.
Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu made the changes to the team that was hammered by Chile as part of preparations for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
Japanese players complained in the first half when the match was 1-1 and Shoya Nakajima fell in the penalty box after contact with Uruguay’s Giovanni Gonzalez. Colombian referee Andres Rojas did not award a penalty.
Suarez and Edinson Cavani had other chances near the end, but the 2-2 looked like a fair result to more than 30,000 fans attending the match.
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