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Football

Uruguay skipper is semifinal doubt


LIMA, Peru -- Uruguay captain Paolo Montero is battling a stomach problem and could miss the team's Copa America semifinal against Brazil on Wednesday, coach Jorge Fossati said.

Defender Montero sat out his team's 3-1 quarterfinal win against Paraguay because of a groin strain and is now undergoing treatment for gastritis.

Even so Fossati warned on arrival in Lima:: "We're going to lock the defense and throw away the key. We proved against Paraguay that Uruguay are not dead."

The 32-year-old Montero, who plays for Juventus in Italy, made his international comeback at the Copa America, two years after quitting the team at the end of the 2002 World Cup.

But Fossati said he did not expect Montero's absence to cause problems against Brazil, a match he did not see as any more difficult than Uruguay's group games against Argentina and Mexico.

"We are getting better, nothing marvellous, but better. Brazil has been playing pretty average until now. To say this is our toughest game would be to show a lack of respect for Mexico and Argentina," Fossati said.

Fossati is credited with ending Uruguay's dismal form in the World Cup qualifiers where they experimented with a risky attacking approach under eccentric former coach Juan Ramon Carrasco.

Since Fossati took over, the team have returned to their traditional style of tactical discipline and gamesmanship.

Fossati said recently that one of the main reasons for recent defeats was that Uruguay failed to pick up enough yellow cards.

Brazil have always been wary of their smaller neighbors since losing 2-1 to them in the decisive match of the 1950 World Cup played at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

They were held 3-3 at home by Uruguay in their last meeting, a World Cup qualifier in November.

"Uruguay are not going to allow us to play our open, passing game. They'll mark hard and clamp us down," warned Alex

The world champions have rested players such as Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Kaka and Ronaldinho for the Copa America but are still a formidable outfit, crushing Mexico 4-0 in their quarterfinal in Piura on Sunday.

Inter Milan striker Adriano had an outstanding match, scoring two goals and setting up another for Ricardo Oliveira, as he became the competition's leading scorer with five goals.

His performance was spoiled, however, by the outrageous dive with which he won the penalty that gave Brazil a first-half lead.


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