In 2010, they were a breath of fresh air. Playing some amazing football and possessing some of the world’s most talented footballers, Uruguay captured the imagination of one and all. They were done in by the Dutch efficiency then, but not before they gave them a huge scare in a 3-2 reverse.
A year later in 2011, they went a step further, winning the Copa America, with a convincing 4-0 win in the final against Paraguay, and also beating Argentina on the way through.
Diego Forlan led Uruguay’s challenge then, and although he is still around, much of the spotlight this time will be on Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. Cavani has not done as much for Paris Saint Germain since his mega move there from Napoli, while Suarez has been playing like a man possessed. 31 goals and 13 assists. PFA Player of the Year. Football Writers’ Player of the Year. Suarez won pretty much everything there was except that elusive Barclays Premier League crown for Liverpool. With such incredible form behind him, Paul Dummett’s crazy challenge on Suarez on the final day of the season, which has led to the Uruguayan having surgery for a meniscal tear in his knee, will have only infuriated Uruguay’s fans.
Much of Uruguay’s fortunes will hinge on Suarez’s form, and his ability to find the back of the net. Uruguay have not been done any favours by the draw, as it has put them alongside European powerhouses, Italy and England in Group D.
Road to the World Cup
Uruguay’s journey to the World Cup began in October 2011, with a match against Bolivia that they won 4-2. They drew the second match against Paraguay 1-1 before Suarez inspired a 4-0 victory against Chile scoring all 4 goals. A draw against Venezuela, and a win against Peru saw Uruguay go into the 2012-13 European football season in second place in the South American Qualifying Group.
But, that is when things began to go pear shaped for Uruguay. A 4-0 reverse against Colombia, a 1-1 draw against Ecuador and losses to Argentina and Bolivia meant that Uruguay were in serious danger of missing out on a place in the World Cup. Their poor form continued into 2013, as they drew against Paraguay and lost to Chile. They then squeezed through away victories in Venezuela and Peru, and beat Colombia in Montevideo, before a 1-0 reverse away to Ecuador. It all boiled down to the last game at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo against the mighty Argentina, and Uruguay won 3-2 with goals from Suarez, Cavani and Cristian Rodriguez.
Uruguay finished fifth, which meant that they had to play a two-legged tie against Jordan in a direct shootout for a World Cup berth. A 5-0 win in Amman, and a goalless draw in Montevideo ensured Uruguay a spot in the World Cup Finals.
Luis Suarez finished as their top scorer, scoring 11 goals.
Manager Oscar Tabarez has announced a 25-man provisional squad, which includes the likes of Forlan, Diego Lugano and Walter Gargano. While Atletico Madrid’s star Diego Godin is expected to shoulder the defensive burden along with with Benfica’s Maximiliano Pereira and Juventus’s Martin Caceres, much of the burden of controlling the midfield will fall on the shoulders of Diego Perez, Gargano and Cristian Rodriguez, also of Atletico Madrid.
Suarez and Cavani will be assisted in the forward line by Cristian Stuani and Abel Hernandez, while the likes of Gaston Ramirez, Forlan and Rodriguez will fight for one berth.
But a huge question mark lingers over the fitness of Suarez, and it will be imperative that Tabarez doesn’t rush Suarez back into action and aggravate his injury further. With the first game against relative minnows in Costa Rica, Tabarez might well be tempted to rest Suarez for that game and start with Stuani or Abel Hernandez instead.
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray/Turkey), Martin Silva (Vasco Da Gama/Brazil), Rodrigo Munoz (Libertad/Paraguay)
Defenders: Diego Lugano (West Bromwich Albion/England), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid/Spain), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid/Spain), Martin Caceres (Juventus/Italy), Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica/Portugal), Jorge Fucile (Porto/Portugal), Sebastian Coates (Nacional).
Midfielders: Egidio Arevalo Rios (Morelia/Mexico), Walter Gargano (Parma/Italy), Diego Perez (Bologna/Italy), Sebastian Eguren (Palmeiras/Brazil), Alvaro Gonzalez (Lazio/Italy), Alejandro Silva (Lanus/Argentina), Alvaro Pereira (San Pablo/Brazil), Cristian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid/Spain), Gaston Ramirez (Southampton/England), Nicolas Lodeiro (Botafogo/Brazil).
Forwards: Luis Suarez (Liverpool/England), Edinson Cavani (PSG/France), Diego Forlan (Cerezo Osaka/Japan), Cristian Stuani (Espanyol/Spain), Abel Hernandez (Palermo/Italy).
Oscar Tabarez, known as El Maestro is widely credited with the resurgence of Uruguay as a footballing force. After an unassuming playing career, he embarked on a coaching career, which took him around South America, before he landed the Uruguay managerial job in 1988. The first reign lasted only 2 years. But, since he took over for a second time in 2006, there has been no stopping Tabarez’s Uruguay. With the talent he has at his disposal, it will be interesting to see how Tabarez goes about his business of trying to get Uruguay at least out of the so-called ‘Group of Death’.
Tactics and Formations
Tabarez has always been a tactically very versatile manager, capable of surprising the opposition with shrewd tactics. Even in Brazil, things will be pretty much the same. His biggest challenge will be to accommodate Suarez and Cavani in the starting eleven without losing out on defensive compactness. Here is a look at a couple of formations that Tabarez might try out.
These days, this has become the trend for most managers trying to accommodate two strikers. In Maximiliano Pereira and Alvaro Pereira, Uruguay have two fullbacks who are more than capable of playing the wing back role. And in Lugano, Godin and Caceres, they have a formidable triumvirate to play in the heart of the defence. While Suarez and Cavani are almost certain to make the starting eleven, it is the midfield where Uruguay’s problems could lie. Diego Perez, Walter Gargano and Cristian Rodriguez have all played at the big stage before, and they will have to count on all that experience, especially against Italy, where they cannot afford to let Andrea Pirlo and co. boss the game.
The wing backs have a huge role to play. In a defensive setup, they sit deep and the formation changes into a 5-3-2, while in an attack minded system, their role transforms into a more attacking one and the 3-5-2 shape is maintained.
With this formation, the diamond in midfield once again demands a lot out of the full backs in both a defensive and attacking sense. Gaston Ramirez or Nicolas Lodeiro could get a look-in if Tabarez prefers this formation possibly in place of Lugano. Even with this formation, a lot will depend on the form of Suarez and Cavani, if Uruguay are to succeed.
But, with Tabarez, one thing is for certain. Uruguay will keep switching formations, even within the same match, if things are not going their way.
Best Starting XI
Goalkeeper: Fernando Muslera
Defenders: Maximiliano Pereira, Diego Godin, Diego Lugano, Martin Caceres, Alvaro Pereira
Midfielders: Diego Perez, Arevalo Rios, Cristian Rodriguez
Strikers: Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani
World Cup History
Uruguay were the winners of the inaugural World Cup held in their own backyard in 1930, beating Argentina in the final. They also won the World Cup in 1950, when they silenced the Maracana Stadium in Rio with a 2-1 win over Brazil. In more recent times, Uruguay didn’t qualify in 1994 and 1998, exited in the group stage in 2002, didn’t qualify again in 2006, and then came the second coming of Tabarez.
Under Tabarez, Uruguay comfortably qualified for the World Cup in South Africa, and there, they put on some sensational performances, beating France along the way to finishing 4th.
|1934||Did not Participate|
|1938||Did Not Participate|
|1958||Did Not Qualify|
|1978||Did Not Qualify|
|1982||Did Not Qualify|
|1986||Round of 16|
|1990||Round of 16|
|1994||Did Not Qualify|
|1998||Did not Qualify|
|2006||Did Not Qualify|
Best World Cup moments
While it is very difficult to rival a World Cup win at home, Jose Nazazzi’s achievement of becoming the first ever captain to lift the football World Cup is not Uruguay's greatest sporting moment. That would be when they silenced the Maracana. And that is no mean feat. When Brazil needed the Maracana the most, the 200,000 in the Maracana remained silent.
As Alcides Ghiggia beat Brazil’s Goalkeeper Moacyr Barbosa, the Maracana’s screams of ecstasy turned into screams of despair and desolation, as Uruguay turned in a magical performance to quell the formidable Brazilians.
Uruguay have a tough group – the group of death in this edition. But with enough experience in their side, Uruguay will harbour hopes of getting through the group at the expense of either Italy or England. If they do get through the group, especially as toppers. a relatively easy Round of 16 clash awaits them, with Group C consisting of Colombia, Japan, Greece and Ivory Coast. So, Uruguay will be disappointed if they don’t achieve a Quarter-final berth in what promises to be South America’s biggest football party ever.
To see other Team Previews : 2014 FIFA World Cup Team PreviewsPublished 27 May 2014, 14:27 IST