(Reuters) – Panama coach Thomas Christiansen said that his side’s Copa America opener against Uruguay on Sunday will be a real challenge as they take on “one of the best teams in the world”.

The manager, who will be without captain Anibal Godoy due to injury, also noted that it could be the most important match he has had to prepare for.

“We are going up against one of the best teams in the world, who are going through a good phase, who have great players and a coach with a lot of resources,” Christiansen, who is Spanish and Danish, told a press conference on Saturday.

“It’s going to be a very intense team physically, that is what (Uruguay coach Marcelo) Bielsa wants from his players, and we have to counteract that with our play,” he said.

Christiansen mentioned the last-minute call-up of Guatemalan Xelaju defender Harold Cummings, who was expected to replace Godoy but declined.

He said his team are in a tough Group C, where they will face the United States and Bolivia.

“Maybe people don’t have much faith in Panama’s chances. I’m not worried about that. What I’m worried about is the motivation of the players, the desire and the intensity they’ll bring to the game.

“If there’s one good thing about Panama, it’s the lungs, the heart and the desire to do well in tournaments. We saw that in last year’s Copa Oro, when we played at a high level, and that’s the objective: to regain that confidence, that joy and to enjoy ourselves again,” he added.

(Reporting by Angelica Medina in Mexico City; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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