efe-epaMontevideo

Members of Uruguay's national soccer team expressed confidence Thursday ahead of the upcoming Copa America and said they are well prepared for the challenge.

Midfielder Nahitan Nandez spoke to reporters at the Carrasco International Airport outside Montevideo minutes before La Celeste boarded a flight for Brazil for that continental tournament, which will be held from June 14 to July 7.

The 23-year-old Boca Juniors player said that he was excited about competing in his first-ever Copa America and that he and his teammates all have their sights set on adding to the country's record haul of 15 titles.

"I'll try to enjoy it and experience it fully," said Nandez, who will likely start Uruguay's first group-stage match against Ecuador.

He added that Uruguay have a lot of tactical options and boast several standout midfielders such as Inter Milan's Matias Vecino, Real Madrid's Federico Valverde, Arsenal's Lucas Torreira and Juventus' Rodrigo Betancur.

Those players will be slotted in behind Uruguay's two biggest stars in recent years - FC Barcelona striker Luis Suarez, who has impressed head coach Oscar Tabarez since returning from recent knee surgery, and Paris Saint-Germain standout Edinson Cavani.

"Our hopes are high. We've worked for this. We've prepared as best we could ... I don't know if 'favorite' is the right word, but we're well prepared, in a very good moment," Nandez said.

Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, meanwhile, told reporters that Uruguay are "confident, with a lot of expectations and desire."

The Galatasaray net minder said he and his teammates believe that Uruguay, a country of just 3.5 million people that has long punched above its weight in international soccer, can go toe-to-toe with any of the other top South American squads.

He said the team won't be weighed down by their illustrious history but are aware of the responsibility that comes with wearing their sky-blue uniforms and will try to bring home title No. 16 at South America's soccer championship.

Muslera was part of the squad that won Uruguay's last Copa America in 2011.

"We're going with the desire to bring back the Cup because I was lucky enough to experience that and it's something you can't explain," he said.

The goalkeeper also pointed to the support of the Uruguayan fans, noting that dozens of people were at the airport to send the team off despite cold and rainy weather Thursday morning.

The Uruguayan squad, whose full roster of players and coaches landed at 12.30 pm on Thursday in Belo Horizonte, will play their first match against Ecuador on Sunday in that southeastern Brazilian city's Mineirão stadium.

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