Today marks two important events leading up the 2010 World Cup. It is exactly one month until Uruguay battle France on the opening day in Cape Town, and it is today that the mangers of the 32 nations must submit their preliminary 30-man rosters to FIFA.
Uruguayan manager, Oscar Washington Tabarez, seemed to have no trouble forming his initial squad. Uruguay sported a total of 34 players during their qualifying campaign, but Tabarez surprised many when he whittled it down to only 26, rather than the 30 expected, in his announcement of the team.
Tabarez excluded 11 of the 34 players that participated in qualification, most notably Cristian Rodriguez, who appeared 15 times throughout the process. Tabarez did, however, include 3 new faces that did not part take in the lead up to South Africa—Nicolas Lodeiro, Mauricio Victorino, and Sebastian Fernandez.
These are 26 that made the cut:
Fernando Muslera (Lazio), Juan-Guillermo Castillo (Cali), Martin Silva (Defensor Sporting)
Diego Lugano (Fenerbahce), Diego Godin (Villarreal), Andres Scotti (Colo Colo), Jorge Fucile (Porto), Martin Caceres (Juventus), Mauricio Victorino (Universidad de Chile), Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica)
Walter Gargano (Napoli), Egidio Arevalo-Rios (Penarol), Sebastian Eguren (AIK Stockholm), Diego Perez (Monaco), Alvaro Pereira (Porto), Alvaro Fernandez (Universidad de Chile), Jorge Rodriguez (River Plate), Alvaro Gonzalez (Nacional), Ignacio Gonzalez (Valencia), Nicolas Lodeiro (Ajax)
Sebastian Fernandez (Banfield), Luis Suarez (Ajax), Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Abreu (Botafogo), Edinson Cavani (Palermo), Jorge Martinez (Catania)
Still, the work is far from over. Tabarez must make another cut, further whittling away the team to a final 23-man squad, before submitting the final roster to FIFA by June 1.
The current roster tends to favor experience over youth, with an average age of 27. Tabarez will look for this experience to stabilize the squad (which had its hiccups throughout qualifying), while relying on the youth to provide the spark needed to see them through their difficult group.
Because Tabarez is known for tinkering with his tactics, it is hard to know which three will not make the final cut. But I reckon that the following 23 players find themselves in the rainy winter of Cape Town in less than a month.
Three Keepers-Fernando Muslera, Juan-Guillermo Castillo, Martin Silva-all got the nod from Tabarez.
This was not the easiest decision for the manager, having five different keepers play throughout the qualification campaign. However, after Muslera played the last four games in qualifying, it became more of a question of who would back him up.
Fabian Carini offers great international experience between the post, having 74 caps to his name. But the 30 year old keeper has only recored 139 career appearances at the club level over his 14 years of professional football.
Sebastian Viera also has international experience with 28 appearances, but his recent performances saw him drop from favor with Tabarez. He only played three games throughout qualification, and hasn’t been in form for Larissa.
This opened the door for both Juan Castillo and Martin Silva.
Silva is a bit of a surprise to be included in the preliminary squad given his lack of experience. He only has one international appearance, a friendly against Algeria in 2009. The 27 year old, is however, the top choice for Defensor Sporting, an Uruguayan club, where he has played for the last 8 years.
Jaun Castillo offers Tabarez his second best option in front of the net. At 32 years old, Castillo has a long professional careers, as well as 11 caps, offering great experience. His recent run of form for Deportivo Cali must have impressed Tabarez.
Fernando Muslera is by far Tabarez’s first choice. The Uruguayan stopper has become a regular member of the starting XI, and a fan favorite for his club Lazio over the last season. His performances have drawn interest from such clubs as Arsenal and Manchester United, and his form during ending stages of qualification were exactly what Uruguay needed.
There weren’t really any surprises in the seven defenders that Tabarez selected. Lugano, Godin, Scotti, Fucile, Caceres, and Pereira all played consistently during the qualifying process. The only one on the list that was not present during qualification is Mauricio Victorino, a 27 year old center back.
Expect Godin to pair up with Uruguayan captain, Lugano in the center. Pereira will hold down the right side, while 23 year old, Juventus player, Caceres holds the left.
Jore Fucile, could also feature in the starting line up on either side, as the Porto player is equally as comfortable on both flanks.
The 34 year old, Andres Scotti is versatile, able to play both as a defender and a midfielder. However, his age may become a factor on wether or not he makes the final cut. Scotti provides much experience but it may be less known and experienced, Mauricio Victorino who makes the final cut.
The biggest shock of the Uruguay squad announcement is the lack of Cristian Rodriguez. The Porto man, 24, featured in 15 qualifying matches. The winger will miss out because he earned a red card in Uruguay’s final qualifier against Argentina, receiving a 2 match ban. With his ban yet to be served, Tabarez has opted out of bringing Rodriguez to South Africa.
Meanwhile, the biggest inclusion into the squad are three home-based player, Egidio Arevalo-Rios, Alvaro Gonzalez, Jorge Rodriguez. A. Gonzalez has the most experience of the three with 11 caps and a successful career within Uruguayan football.
Egidio Arevalo-Rios and Rodriguez are lesser known players with only 9 caps between them. I bet that one, if not both, do not go to South Africa.
Predicting what Tabarez will do with the remaining seven midfielders on the list is nearly impossible. During qualifying he went so far as to put Forlan in the midfield, so anything is possible.
I would expect Nicolas Lodeiro to start as the attacking midfielder, Walter Gargano as the defensive midfielder, Alvaro Pereira on the left. Who plays on the right? I am not completely sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alvaro Gonzalez take the spot if he preforms well during the next month.
Diego Perez and Sebastian Eguren are both known for their competitive play as defensive midfielders, providing Tabarez with even more experience and options. While Ignacio Gonzalez has 17 caps in the midfield and will probably find himself in South Africa.
Alvaro Fernandez, one of the younger players at 24, may be implemented by Tabarez for his youth, bringing pace into the midfield.
Nicolas Lodeiro will be the star of the Uruguayan midfield. The 21 year old brought a new spark to the side when he first appeared during the play-off against Costa Rica. His pace, vision, and passing greatly improve the entire midfield.
The forwards will probably be the easiest area for Tabarez to figure out, with Diego Forland and Luis Suarez leading the attack. This will be Forlan’s second World Cup. It is this experience which will greatly help his younger partner, Suarez, who at 23, has had a phenomenal season at Ajax. The pair of them will start up top of Uruguay and have to potential to lead the team into the round of sixteen.
Sebastian Abreu has also earned himself a spot in South Africa. With 56 caps to his name, Abreu scored the goal that earned Uruguay a ticket to the World Cup. Expect him to be used as a sub to help create the spark needed during the later stages of a game.
Of the remaining three forwards on the list, at least one will not be going to South Africa. Both Edinson Cavani and Jorge Martinez made appearance during qualification, while Sebastian Fernandez did not.
Cavani has history playing with the U-20 national team, as well as 13 caps and 2 goals for Uruguay. At 23, he is still relatively young and has potential to make an impact, if given the chance.
Martinez, 27, continues to play an influential role for Serie A team Catania. His experience within one of the best leagues in the world could provide him a place in the squad, if his form leading up to the World Cup is consistent.
Fernandez also has a realistic shot of edging out one of the spots on the final roster. He has 169 total career appearances at the age of 24.
Who ultimately makes the final cut comes down to form during next month. Tabarez could pick any three of the twenty-six not to go if performance suffers, and with injuries still a possibility, who knows what will happen. But I don’t see Sebastian Fernandez or Mauricio Victorino going to Cape Town, and I expect Egidio Arevalo-Rios and Rodriguez to battle out for the final spot to Africa.