La Celeste (the Sky Blue), as they are referred to, the Uruguay national football team will be making their 46th appearance in the Copa America this year. Mentored by 'the Teacher' Oscar Tabarez, who has stayed with the national team for over a decade, will be trying to gift a 16th continental title the nation. The Uruguayans lifted their last Copa America trophy in 2011, led by their star-striker Diego Forlan and a very young Luis Suarez beside him.
They had a Copa America to forget in 2016, bowing out in the group stages after successive defeats to Mexico and Venezuela. However, the squad showed impressive character in the 2018 World Cup and looked strong in all zones, rather than depending on individuals. Starting from goalkeeper Muslera, the center-back duo of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, the midfield pair of Matias Vecino and Lucas Torreira, to the strikers Edinson Cavani and Suarez, La Celeste are well balanced in all departments. Uruguay went down to eventual champions France in the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The Copa America is no easy challenge for them as they are placed in a certain group of death, as we call it. La Celeste are in Group C, consisting of Asian powerhouse Japan, the defending champions Chile and the utterly unpredictable Ecuador, all of whom are capable of getting through the group.
Uruguay NT Squad
Goalkeepers: Martin Campana (Independiente), Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Libertad)
Defenders: Martin Caceres (Juventus), Sebastian Coates (Sporting CP), Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Marcelo Saracchi (RB Leipzig), Giovanni Gonzalez (Penarol)
Midfielders: Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Flamengo), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Diego Laxalt (AC Milan), Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders), Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Gaston Pereiro (PSV), Lucas Torreira (Arsenal), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Matias Vecino (Inter)
Forwards: Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain), Maxi Gomez (Celta Vigo), Jonathan Rodriguez (Cruz Azul), Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
Luis Suarez: La Celeste's most lethal weapon, a beast of a striker who plies his trade at Barcelona, and has a great understanding with partner Cavani. The PSG star will be the better goalscoring option but Suarez is as big a threat in front of goal and more in the final third. A part of the famous Proceso by Tabarez back in 2006, Suarez was named as the Player of the Tournament in the 2011 Copa America, scoring four goals. He was also a very important squad member in the 2018 World Cup. He scored 21 goals for Barcelona in the 2018-19 La Liga campaign and is expected to be fully fit after his hamstring injury.
Diego Godin: Uruguay's captain and central defender, Diego Godin has been a vital cog for both his club and country for several years now. Standing at 6'2'', Godin is a really strong and physical defender, who improvises and inspires his partners in the defence. He is the one player you should have in your defense, any day of the year. A member of IFFHS's 2018 TOTY, FIFA World Cup Dream Team 2018, UEFA Squad of the Season on three separate occasions, the latest in 2016-17, La Liga Best Defender 2015-16. Does he need more achievements to prove his importance?
Lucas Torreira: We have a defender, a striker, so we got to have a midfielder to cover all the bases. Here is a midfielder who could cover every inch of the playing surface, Lucas Torreira, the find of the World Cup 2018 for Uruguay. Impressed by his exploits in Russia, Arsenal called Sampdoria and requested for his services. The defensive midfielder was arguably Arsenal's best midfielder last season. His abilities are great, his attitude, his work ethic, his mentality, everything is even better. At such a young age, he wears his heart on the sleeve, and that brings out the Uruguayan fighting spirit, the Garra Charrua. Watch out for some fire in here.
Sunday, June 16: Uruguay vs Ecuador
Thursday, June 20: Uruguay vs Japan
Monday, June 24: Uruguay vs Chile
A good all-around squad with fine players, Uruguay will be expected to go through as one of the top two from their group. For the sake of predictions, let's say they'll finish first in the group.
Their possible opponents in the quarter-finals would be the third-placed team from group A or B, whom they'll believe they can overcome and reach the semi-finals, where the winner of Group B, most probably, Argentina or Colombia would be waiting. Can they get past Colombia? Yes. Against Argentina? Average team, bad form, new coach, young players, but still on paper it's a no. A team with Lionel Messi will always be favorites, that's what happens on paper.
So the prediction, a third place finish, for La Celeste. What's yours?