Predicting the Uruguay Squad 40 Days from the 2014 World Cup
Uruguay needed a play-off against Jordan to reach the World Cup finals. The team looked incapable of troubling many teams in Brazil during a tortuous qualification campaign, but La Celeste had a similarly difficult path in 2010 and surprised the world with a semi-final finish.
To put it simply, the Uruguayan national team never looks more dangerous than when it has been written out of contention: 1950, anybody?
Forty days before the show itself kicks off with holders Brazil facing Croatia, who is likely to make coach Oscar Tabarez's list and represent Los Charruas in their neighbour's backyard? Dividing the nation's hopefuls by position, I look over the candidates and predict who will be on the plane aiming for another Maracanazo.
There should be little discussion on who gets the nod in goal for La Garra Charrua. Fernando Muslera has been the undisputed starter for the last five years and despite the occasional lapse in concentration is an excellent shot stopper who is among the best keepers in the world.
Behind him, Martin Silva earned a move to Rio giants Vasco as a reward for a brilliant spell in Paraguay with Olimpia and is a perfect candidate for understudy. Rodrigo Munoz and Juan Castillo will fight out for the last goalkeeper space, the former's fewer years perhaps giving him the edge.
Los Charruas' defensive set-up has been based on the "Two Diegos" for the past four years. Diego Lugano and Diego Godin are immensely experienced in international football, and though their legs may not have the same staying power as in 2010 they are two grizzled competitors who will not give an inch.
Outside, Maxi Pereira is still proving his quality with Benfica week-in, week-out. On the other flank it appears to be a straight fight between Marcos Caceres and Jorge Fucile, who will both be present in the squad for Brazil.
Coach Oscar Tabarez may be tempted to add some young blood to that veteran back line. Liverpool's Sebastian Coates and young Atletico Madrid prospect Jose Maria Gimenez would give a good balance to the defence and may well receive the call ahead of the likes of Alejandro Silva and Matias Aguirregaray.
The middle of the park is the scene of fierce competition among the Uruguayan hopefuls. The men likely to start, however, will be more than familiar to those who followed La Celeste in 2010 and one year later when they lifted the Copa America.
The core quintet of Diego Perez, Cristian Rodriguez, Walter Gargano, Egidio Arevalo Rios and Walter Gargano boast 328 caps between them, with each capped more than 50 times, while Alvaro Gonzalez, with 42, does not trail far behind. These six players will form the base of the Uruguay team in midfield.
Gaston Ramirez and Nicolas Lodeiro are likely to get the nod as the more creative players in the centre, although veteran Sebastian Eguren is another who could receive a call-up.
There should be little doubt over who will be appearing in the list of forwards. Barring injury or other misfortunes, the Uruguay attacking line-up essentially writes itself.
At 35, the great Diego Forlan will return to the stage where he shone so brightly in 2010—albeit with the intervening four years having taken their toll on the ex-Manchester United man. Outside Forlan, Liverpool goal machine Luis Suarez surely carries the hopes of a nation alongside the equally prolific Edinson Cavani.
There shouldn't be too much dispute over those picked as back-up either. Abel Fernandez has matured admirably in the last few years, and his speed make him a perfect impact substitution.
Espanyol's Christian Stuani, meanwhile, has forced his way into recognition, and his potency down the flanks make him a useful alternative.
Uruguay's Full World Cup Squad
Jose Maria Gimenez
Egidio Arevalo Rios