(Reuters) – Uruguay coach Marcelo Bielsa believes the Copa America is the ideal tournament to showcase his side’s level of play ahead of their debut against Panama on Sunday.

The Argentine, who took over last year following the departure of Diego Alonso, has overseen a huge improvement in the Uruguayan side, who overcame Argentina and Brazil in the World Cup qualifiers and beat Mexico in a friendly earlier this month.

“It’s a new episode and we are looking forward to showing the level we are capable of,” Bielsa told a press conference on Saturday.

“I always think it’s better to show what you want to do than to anticipate or say it beforehand. Competitions like this are tests to confirm or not the place that each player deserves to represent Uruguay.”

Bielsa, who has opted for a generational change in the squad, went on to highlight some of the work he has done, particularly in terms of integrating new players with the established names in the squad.

“Uruguay have a solid base of experience and young players are being added who deserve a place in their own positions,” he said.

He added that veteran striker Luis Suarez, the country’s all-time leading scorer with 68 goals in 138 appearances, is in good shape, and also spoke of the decision made last month by second-highest scorer (58) Edinson Cavani to retire from international football.

“It is a personal decision by an idol of Uruguayan football. Such a position should not be analysed, but respected. It is an approach that he decides to give to his career and we limit ourselves to respecting individual, personal matters.”

Finally, he pointed out that his team will try to take the matches one at a time, without getting overconfident about their opponents.

“At this level of the competition, with the preparation time and information available, all the teams know enough about their opponents to be able to imagine or plan the match.

“The teams grow, develop and pass stages within the tournament, it is not possible to imagine weak opponents. We are happy to be able to compete with the best teams,”

Uruguay will also face the United States and Bolivia in Group C.

(Reporting by Angelica Medina in Mexico City; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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