Uruguay World Cup 2014: Team Guide for FIFA Tournament
With two World Cup winners medals, Uruguay is by some margin the smallest nation (population-wise) to have lifted football's most treasured prize. With just three million citizens the Celeste have a small pool to choose from, but they make up for that disadvantage with the famous Charrua heart and spirit, which helps the nation fight until the death.
The competition returns to Brazil for the first time since Uruguay shocked the hosts and the football world by winning in the Maracana in 1950. Interest in the team is higher than ever thanks to that historical precedent, as well as their unexpected journey to the semi-finals four years ago before falling to the Netherlands.
But what can be expected of the Celeste in the FIFA World Cup? Here is a short guide to the Rioplatense nation looking to add a third World Cup crown to their collection.
Road to the Finals
It has become a sort of tradition for Uruguay to undergo their fair share of suffering on the way to a World Cup finals. A rollercoaster campaign to win a place at Brazil 2014 proved to be no exception for the Celeste.
A decent start and finish to the Conmebol competition was interrupted by a desperate run of form in the middle, after Uruguay's disastrous campaign in the 2012 London Olympics. Uruguay went six matches without a win, losing four of those clashes and going almost 12 months before victory prior to recovering in the final straight.
A last-round victory over Argentina guaranteed Oscar Tabarez's men a play-off spot. From there, Jordan were easily dispatched to secure a second-consecutive qualification for the Rioplatense nation, who had looked in serious danger of missing out altogether before rediscovering their best form in the nick of time.
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco Da Gama), Rodrigo Munoz (Libertad)
Defenders: Diego Lugano (unattached), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Martin Caceres (Juventus), Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica), Jorge Fucile (Porto), Sebastian Coates (Nacional)
Midfielders: Egidio Arevalo Rios (Morelia), Walter Gargano (Parma), Diego Perez (Bologna), Sebastian Eguren (Palmeiras), Alvaro Gonzalez (Lazio), Alejandro Silva (Lanus), Alvaro Pereira (San Pablo), Cristian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid), Gaston Ramirez (Southampton), Nicolas Lodeiro (Botafogo)
The nickname of professor or maestro for coaches is a common tradition across South American football. But few trainers deserve the tag more than the man entrusted with bringing home a third World Cup for Uruguay, Oscar Tabarez.
A coach of immense experience, with spells at clubs as varied as Milan, Boca Juniors, Deportivo Cali and Oviedo, this will be Tabarez's third World Cup in charge of the Celeste following campaigns in 1990 and 2010. He is known for his cerebral approach to the game, planning out tactical nuances with care and ensuring his instructions are respected on the pitch.
"El Maestro" has formed a well-drilled Uruguay team which, while perhaps not being the prettiest side around, are extremely difficult to break down. Tabarez has helped the Charrua once more become a world football force and with his knowledge driving the team, a repeat of South Africa's heroics is definitely not out of the question.
One to Watch
Throughout the short career of Gaston Ramirez, "potential" has been the word that has consistently stuck to the attacking midfielder. The Southampton youngster is widely tipped to be a star by those that watch him; but so far, he has struggled to prove those predictions right when it really counts.
A disappointing turn in the 2012 Olympics and a subsequent move to the Saints, where he has been held back by injury and poor form, have led to Ramirez's development not progressing in the manner most expected. But in the national team, surrounded by quality players and often entering off the bench, he will have the opportunity to show his best side.
The 23-year-old will have to fight for his place in Brazil. Atletico Madrid's Cristian Rodriguez and veteran playmaker Diego Forlan both start ahead in the pecking order. But if he gets the chance, the cultured youngster could well be one of the surprises of the tournament.
Luis Suarez played the role of both hero and villain during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Hero, for all of the three million Uruguayans who watched him sacrifice himself to handle on the line during the quarter-final and save a certain goal for Ghana. Villain, for everyone who saw his actions as contravening the spirit of the game.
That moment sums up the Liverpool striker. Love him or hate him, you cannot deny that El Pistolero has immense talent. Thirty-one Premier League goals in 33 games this season, while not enough to win the title for the Reds, only underlined his status as arguably the best centre-forward in world football.
Just 23 at the last World Cup, Suarez returns to the competition a better and more mature player. If Uruguay hope to emulate their last-four finish of 2010, they will need the striker to be on form and hitting the net to drive them forward through a tough group.
World Cup Record
|World Cup Appearances||11|
|Titles||2 (1930, 1950)|
|Most appearances||Ladislao Mazurkiewicz (13)|
|Most goals||Oscar Miguez (7)|
|Most goals in match||Carlos Borges, Oscar Miguez, Pedro Cea (3)|
Group D fixtures:
Uruguay vs. Costa Rica, June 14 (Estadio Castelao, Fortaleza).
Uruguay vs. England, June 19 (Arena do Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo).
Uruguay vs. Italy, June 24 (Arena das Dunas, Natal).