FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Uruguay
By Duncan Day
Football.com will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview.
Nickname: La Celeste
World Cups Appearances: 12, champions in 1930 and 1950
FIFA Ranking: Sixth
How Did They Get Here?
Uruguay qualified by finishing fourth in the CONMEBOL qualifying group. They finished with a 7-4-5 record, as striker Luis Suarez tied Lionel Messi for the second most goals in their group with eight.
Opponents (Match Date): Costa Rica (6/14), England (6/19), Italy (6/24)
Group Prediction: Second
Why Finish In Second?
It’s clear Uruguay can hold their own in international play. In the 2010 World Cup, Uruguay made a legitimate push for the title, only to end their campaign in fourth place. Oscar Tabarez’s side also had great success at the Copa America, defeating Argentina in the quarterfinals through a penalty shootout en route to the first place prize. Luis Suarez has been absolutely magnificent at Anfield this season. He led the Premier League in goals and shares the Golden Boot with Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. In the end, with Suarez and Edinson Cavani (who’s also been a huge threat for PSG tallying 25 goals and 43 matches), the South American country should be capable of overcoming England’s younger back line and an underdog Costa Rican squad.
Grading Each Position
An integral piece to Uruguay’s successful 2011 Copa America, Fernando Muslera will most likely serve his country as first choice goalkeeper in Brazil. He’s definitely an above average keeper for any World Cup team. In 2010 actually, the 27-year-old was named the seventh best goalie in the world by IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics). In 2011, he was called the sixth best keeper by the same organization. Right now, he suits up for Turkey’s Galatasaray, and Manchester United has reportedly inquired about the services of the Buenos Aires native, entertaining a £15 million fee. Tabarez should be comfortably satisfied with his net minder’s abilities.
Defense: Veteran center back and captain Diego Lugano leads a Uruguayan back line that has seen inconsistency in the past. It’s not certain whether they are strong enough to help La Celeste make a run into the final. They must first show power to take care of Group opponents Italy and England, looking to shut down individual threats of Mario Balotelli, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney.
Uruguay does boast a significant veteran presence with Lugano, Benfica’s Maxi Pereira and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin all notching at least 76 caps for their national side. Arguably one of the best center backs in Europe, Godin was featured in an Atletico defense that was one of the best in La Liga from a “goals against” standpoint. The back line, overall, has to focus on fundamentals because they’re a quality group if they can band together correctly.
Midfield: It’s an uninspiring midfield when you’re examining other world-class opposition (Spain for example) competing for the World Cup title. Uruguay generally maintains an older crew with Diego Perez, 34, Cristian Rodriguez, 28, and Walter Gagano, 29, numbering the most appearances.
Their youngest man happens to be a promising 23-year-old, Southampton’s Gaston Ramirez. While the attacking midfielder hasn’t made a lot of noise in the Premier League stats column, his skills set is something to enjoy. For a footballer under-24, his great decision-making on the ball and technical ability will draw the attention of viewers. The issue with Ramirez revolves around the fact that he’s still a raw talent, but who knows what can happen in Brazil based on the available opportunities.
Forwards: This group is undoubtedly Uruguay’s best. As was noted previously, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, amongst the best forwards on the globe, have had excellent seasons for their respective clubs. Cavani was second behind star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in PSG’s goal tally. The 27-year-old didn’t have the caliber of season likened to his Napoli days, but understandably, Ibrahimovic stole some of his thunder. Performing for his country, Cavani hasn’t shied away from triumphs, too, netting 20 goals in 60 caps. He’s a productive goal scorer, and his attacking mode is strengthened by an exceptional work-rate.
On the other hand, you have Suarez, who has seen through his best statistical year of football since 2009-10 starting for Dutch club Ajax. He was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year award and won the Premier League Golden Boot prize as well as the Football Association Writers player of the year accolade. Suarez, alongside Daniel Sturridge, propelled Liverpool to compete for the EPL crown after a disappointing 2012-13 year. The Nacional youth product has shown the footballing planet that he’s a complete striker, with superb finishing, aerial and positioning capabilities.
Expect both Suarez and Cavani to bear major roles in Uruguay’s push for a great World Cup run.
Coaching: There isn’t anything really negative say regarding the Oscar Tabarez’s managerial performance for Uruguay. Simply put, he’s exceeded expectations, finding a way to muster favorable outcomes despite lacking an ultra-talented squad. A fourth place World Cup conclusion and a Copa America title have the former AC Milan defender as the longest tenured coach in CONMEBOL right now, following the team’s decision to keep Tabaraz, hired in ’06, for multiple terms. It will be interesting to see the manager’s tactics in Brazil.
How Can They Win The World Cup?
Bottom Line: Uruguay doesn’t have the most well-rounded side, so their attack (namely their forwards) needs to hit to their full potential. Los Charruas’ back line has to be consistent at the same time. It’s certainly not guaranteed that these two actions will occur, but you could give Uruguay a sleeper shot at winning the Cup.
What’s There To Like About Uruguay?
Rich and diverse culture sums up the Uruguay, as the country has found many colonizers instill various traditions. “Gaucho” and “tango” styles of music and dance evolved here, and for all you beef lovers, Uruguay numbers among the world’s top consumers of the meat, eating tasty traditional dishes such as chivito, a steak sandwich. From a cultural standpoint, you have respect the fact that this country has religious freedom, separating church from state to allow for a wide variety of beliefs. Also, while the USA was undergoing a big economic downturn from 2007-2009, Uruguay was the only country in the Americans that didn’t have a recession.