Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay face Hossam Hassan's Jordan over two legs for a place at the Brazil 2014 World Cup. The South Americans are the bookmakers pick to win the tie, but do they deserve such heavy favoritism after enduring a somewhat troubled qualifying campaign?
Uruguay are at odds of as low as $1.02 to progress to the World Cup finals, while Jordan are unfancied at $13. The first leg of the tie will be played in Amman on November 13, with the second leg taking place in Montevideo on November 20.
The tiny nation with two world titles to its name has become accustomed to these playoff games, having beaten Costa Rica via the same format to reach the 2010 World Cup, lost to Australia ahead of Germany 2006 and defeated the same country to qualify for the 2002 edition.
Following a strong showing at the South African World Cup, where they reached the semi-finals, and overall victory in the 2011 Copa America, Uruguay fans may have expected their side to avoid the playoffs this time around by qualifying directly, especially considering South America had an extra spot available this time around due to Brazil gaining automatic entry.
A critical dip in form midway through the campaign meant the Celestes at one stage looked in danger of missing out altogether, and they recovered to sneak into the fifth spot on the South American table.
Jordan reached this stage by finishing as the fifth placed team in Asia, having finished in third place in Group B behind Japan and Australia, then defeated Uzbekistan over two legs in September.
The west Asians notched some results along the way that will ensure Tabarez is wary heading into their clash.
Wins over continental heavyweights Australia and Japan in Amman prove that Jordan is a force to be reckoned with on home soil. Hassan will no doubt be hoping to take an advantage, no matter how narrow, into the second leg in Montevideo.
Jordanian strike duo Ahmad Ibrahim and Hassan Abdel Fattah notched seven goals each over the course of Asian qualifying, and they will need to be monitored closely by Diego Lugano and company.
Coach Hassan understands the scope of the task ahead of his chargers, but he remains quietly confident, as is apparent from his statements ahead of the first game, reported here by the New Zealand Herald.
We understand very well the ability and the experience of the Uruguayan team, but we managed to reach this stage and to stand in front of the big players not out of nothing.
You have to be big.
Tabarez, meanwhile, was predictably cautious. Yahoo!7 Sport reported the Uruguay manager saying of the matchup, "Like all Uruguayans I hope we make it through (but) we would be very wrong to think Jordan cannot cause us problems."
A 4-0 loss to Colombia in September was the start of a dismal six-match winless streak in qualifying for the Celestes, in which they also went down to Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.
A repeat of that kind of form would see them struggle against the Jordanians, especially away from home, but four wins out of their final five matches indicate they have rediscovered their mojo.
With the class of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Christian Rodriguez and Egidio Arevalo Rios to call on, among others, the Uruguayans really should overcome their Asian opponents with relative ease.
Anything other than a convincing win by Jordan in the first leg will ensure the tie is heavily weighted in Uruguay's favor. The Celestes will fancy their chances of scoring several goals at least in Montevideo.
Uruguay may have taken the tricky route once again, but expect their famous blue strip to be making an appearance at Brazil 2014.
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