Italy vs. Uruguay: La Celeste Need Win to Build Momentum Toward 2014 World Cup

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2013

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 26:  Fernando Muslera, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez of Uruguay look dejected at the end of the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Semi Final match between Brazil and Uruguay at Governador Magalhaes Pinto Estadio Mineirao on June 26, 2013 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

If Uruguay are going to come out of their coma in time for the 2014 World Cup, they need to start by upending Italy in the Confederations Cup third-place match.

Oscar Tabarez's side has looked a little better in the tournament so far, but Uruguay's performances in the group stage will have done little to allay the fears of supporters. This is still a stilted team that hasn't moved on from an aging Diego Forlan.

The semifinal was a much better showing, and La Celeste were unlucky to lose on a late goal, even if their marking was poor on the corner that Paulinho fired in for the win.

It was encouraging for the supporters who have seen Uruguay sleepwalk through their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. When you've watched Uruguay's matches over the last couple of weeks, though, you're still not seeing a team close to the one that won the 2011 Copa America and finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup.

There should be little doubt Uruguay will qualify for 2014. They're sitting in fifth in CONMEBOL, level with Venezuela but with a better goal differential and a game in hand. La Celeste will find a way to get it done against the fifth-placed Asian qualifier if it comes to that.

The question is whether or not the team should be satisfied with simply making it to the World Cup and making an early exit. There's enough talent in the squad to at least get to the quarterfinals.

Only a year out from the tournament and Uruguay are running out of real estate on the road to the World Cup. The last thing an underperforming Uruguay need is to finish another international tournament with a resounding defeat.

Remember the 2012 Olympics? La Celeste went in as one of the favorites, but were dumped out of the group stage. It was a sign of things to come.

Beating Italy can provide a much-needed boost of confidence to the squad. The Azzurri, while one of the best sides in the world, are there for the taking too. They are coming off a 120-minute war of attrition against Spain. Italy will be very tired and without Mario Balotelli.

If Uruguay can build off of their performance against Brazil, they've got a great chance at finishing third in this tournament, which wouldn't be a bad showing.

There is one of two ways the players will approach this match. They'll either look really up for it and get out on the front foot, or they'll look apprehensive, unwilling to take any chance that could lead to a costly mistake.

How the team performs will likely be very telling about its chances at the 2014 World Cup. If it's a repeat of the group stage match against Spain, Tabarez and his Uruguay players are in for a very long next 12 months.