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Uruguay poses before a friendly with Japan.
Nickname: Los Charruas
FIFA World Ranking: 6
Best/Worst Ranking: 2/76
World Cup Titles: 2 (1930, 1950). 1924 and 1928 Olympic gold medals also considered official world titles by FIFA.
Copa America Titles: 15 (1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967, 1983, 1987, 1995, 2011)
Coach: Oscar Tabarz
Captain: Diego Lugano
Last World Cup: Fourth Place
Last Copa America Cup: Champions
Record vs. Italy: 3 wins, 4 draws, 2 losses
What a difference a World Cup cycle makes.
Three years ago Uruguay was considered one of the rising teams in the world. A surprise run to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2010 and a romp to the Copa America title the next year put them in the conversation of possible winners in Brazil, especially with the tournament on South American soil.
Four wins and two draws in the first six rounds of CONMEBOL qualifying only cemented that opinion. Then the bottom fell out.
Round 7 saw a 4-0 away loss to Colombia. After a draw against Ecuador the Uruguayans endured two more thrashings, 3-1 in Argentina and 4-1 against Bolivia in the rarefied air of La Paz. From Round 7 to Round 14, Uruguay played six matches and gained only two points.
They recovered to beat out Venezuela for the intercontinental playoff, where they dispatched Asian representative Jordan 5-0 on aggregate.
A seed did them no favors in the draw, but their game against Italy will be one of the most anticipated of the group stage. The teams have six world championships between them—and they have recent knowledge of each other after being matched in the third place game of the Confederations Cup in the summer.
The Italians took the lead twice, but Edinson Cavani responded both times and sent the game to penalties—the second time in four days that the Azzurri were involved in a shootout. Gigi Buffon saved three Uruguayan shots to give the Italians the victory.
That game should cause the Uruguayans some concern. The Italians played them even (and sometimes better) over 120 minutes in spite of some severe handicaps. They were three days removed from playing 120 sweltering minutes against Spain in Fortaleza. Star striker Mario Balotelli and starting right-back Ignazio Abate had been sent home due to injury. Stars like Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio were left on the bench to rest.
In spite of all of these disadvantages, the Italians maintained 57 percent of possession and the shots count was almost even (21 to Uruguay, 20 for Italy).
Uruguay's team is powered by their attacking triumvirate of Cavani, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. They can give Italy's defense a run for their money, but they may not get many chances. Italy's midfield outclasses Uruguay's, and if they hold possession the Uruguayans will have difficulty getting service. That being said, all three have enough class to make one ball enough.
As good as Uruguay's attackers are, Italy has the edge in the midfield and in defense. That advantage in two phases coupled with the fact that Italy played them so well while still underpowered indicates that a full-power Azzurri has enough to brush Uruguay aside.
Both teams are capable of winning this match, but if Italy has all of its elements in the line-up, they should be good for at least one point. Of course, they'll be hoping that they won't need to win this game to get through.