The last time the World Cup was held in Brazil, Uruguay emerged as champions.
With 28-1 odds entering this year’s tourney, the reigning Copa America champs must be considered an intriguing dark-horse candidate to win their third World Cup title and repeat their 1950 magic in Brazil.
Since finishing fourth at the 2010 World Cup, Uruguay has performed well in international competition. In addition to their Copa America title, Uruguay reached the semi-finals of the 2011 Pan-American Games and the 2013 Confederations Cup.
However, the squad struggled early on in the CONMEBOL qualifying tournament, failing to record a victory in their first five qualifying matches before rebounding to earn a berth in a two-game playoff against Jordan.
Then, they dominated with a convincing 5-0 victory in the first leg, followed by a scoreless draw in the second leg.
This recent success translates into high expectations at home for Uruguay at Brazil 2014. The squad joins Italy, England and Costa Rica in the group with perhaps the most parity at this year’s World Cup.
Italy is currently a 3-2 favorite to win Group D, closely followed by Uruguay at 15-8 and England at 2-1. Costa Rica is the long shot, with odds at 50-1 to capture first place.
Uruguay last faced Italy in the bronze-medal game of the 2013 Confederations Cup, losing to the Azzurri on penalties. The squad defeated the Italians 1-0 in a 2011 friendly, the only other meeting between the two since 2002.
The Uruguayans also have a limited history on the pitch against England. The two sides played a 2006 friendly, won 2-1 by England, and last met at the World Cup in 1966, the last and only time that England claimed the title.
Costa Rica is not expected to present a challenge for Uruguay in the group stage, but the history between the two squads cannot be overlooked. The last time Uruguay and Costa Rica met was in a closely fought two-game 2010 World Cup qualification playoff, won 2-1 on aggregate by Uruguay.
While Uruguay’s greatest strength may be their defense, which did not allow a goal in group-stage play at the 2010 World Cup, the squad also boasts offensive weapons. Most notable is Luis Suarez, the Liverpool striker who led all scorers during CONMEBOL qualifying with 11 goals.
Although Suarez underwent knee surgery in mid-May and continues to undergo aggressive rehabilitation in the days leading up to the start of World Cup action, he continues to rank among the props betting favorites to lead the tournament in goal scoring, with odds of 16-1.