Mexico convinced Uruguay are tough Copa America test even with Suarez out

Luis Suarez - Uruguay - Close up

PHOENIX—Superheroes are walking around everywhere in downtown Phoenix this weekend, though they’re sweating through their costumes in the record-breaking heat.

It’s Comicon weekend in the Valley of the Sun, but one big hero for Uruguay is not in town – injured Uruguay striker Luis Suarez.

The convention of comic book villains and heroes won’t have real-life good guys and bad guys battling it out. The Mexico-Uruguay Copa America Centenario match on Sunday (8 pm ET, FS1, Univision, UDN) in nearby Glendale, however, has a clear protagonist locally in El Tri as the top two favorites in Group C face off.

Uruguay is without the world-class Suarez, who has a hamstring injury and is hopeful of playing at some point during the tournament, but his image is seen on billboards around the region hailing the arrival of Copa America. But they seem just fine playing the role of underdog in a city Mexico can call home, with its large Mexican and Mexican-American population.

“The objective is always the same,” said Uruguay defender Jose Maria Gimenez. “We don’t want to be favorites even for a moment. We’re preparing for a Mexico home crowd at the stadium that will be rooting against us.”

“We knew from early on that we wouldn’t have him,” said midfielder Egidio Arevalo Rios. “We’re convinced still that even without him we will be capable.”

The weekend has already had record-breaking heat, another factor working against Uruguay, though it has affected Mexico, too. Scheduled outdoor practices for both teams have been moved from nearby colleges to inside the air-conditioned confines of University of Phoenix Stadium, where Sunday’s game will be played.

Temperatures are expected to reach 117 degrees outside on Saturday and Sunday – but no more than 80 under a retractable roof.

“It won’t benefit us or them,” said Mexico defender Jorge Torres Nilo. “It’s not an advantage either way.”

Mexico’s players aren’t viewing Suarez’s absence as a major advantage. For them, Uruguay remain a complicated team.

“He’s one of Uruguay’s most important players,” Torres Nilo said. “We know they have others who can do well. [Edinson] Cavani has a lot of ability and can make a difference on the field at any time.”

Mexico midfielder Jesus Duenas agreed, but said the absence of Suarez makes it more imperative to take three points from the match.

The players also downplayed their homefield advantage. Mexico haven’t always won in greater Phoenix; in fact, they played to a scoreless draw with Guatemala in a Gold Cup match last year and drew 2-2 with the US in Arizona in a 2014 friendly.

“We have a lot of fans here and we’re comfortable here,” Torres Nilo said. “We’ll have a lot of support and that’s about it. It’s not something that can impact what happens on the field.”