2014 World Cup Group D team previews: Uruguay

Analysis of Uruguay's 2014 World Cup chances in a Group D with England, Costa Rica and Italy.
Diego Lugano, right, and Diego Forlan, second right, with Uruguay shown training on May 21, 2014. Matilde Campodonico / AP
Diego Lugano, right, and Diego Forlan, second right, with Uruguay shown training on May 21, 2014. Matilde Campodonico / AP

Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez believes his team have two key advantages in Brazil: their Confederations Cup experience there last year and the near-perfect footballing age of key players.

Luis Suarez, Uruguay’s record scorer with 39 goals, and strike partner Edinson Cavani are both 27, though Suarez is now a major doubt after Premier League’s Player of the Year required arthroscopic surgery to repair meniscus damage in his left knee after a training accident on May 21.

Tabarez would not go as far as saying that Uruguay can repeat their 1950 World Cup success in Brazil, but he hopes they can reach the latter stages, as they did in South Africa four years ago.

“What happened in 1950 was a long time ago, a different era,” Tabarez said, “but it won’t be easy to beat us. Brazil found it hard to beat us last year. We could cause some surprises and go a long way.”

Last year’s Confederations Cup gave the reigning South American champions experience of the conditions teams can expect at the tournament, including climate at venues separated in some cases by thousands of kilometres.

Uruguay’s World Cup exploits in Brazil 64 years ago hold great memories for Uruguay, but bad memories for Brazilian fans old enough to remember the pain of losing the decider at the 1950 finals – the only other time Brazil has hosted the football extravaganza.

Their 2-1 victory over Brazil on July 16, 1950, known as the “Maracanazo”, gave Uruguay their second title and might even give Tabarez’s team an added boost in a tight group that includes former champions Italy and England as well as Costa Rica.

Continuity is the key for this Uruguayan generation, benefiting from a stable set-up under Tabarez, who has been in charge in his second spell as head coach since 2006 and will be the longest-serving coach at the finals.

Uruguay will play a similar game, based on a 4-4-2 formation, that took them to the semi-finals in South Africa four years ago and is reminiscent of classic Italian teams.

Cristian “Cebolla” (The Onion) Rodriguez, who was suspended from the 2010 tournament, is the usual starter in the role behind the strikers that Diego Forlan occupied at the previous finals.

The midfield will include two or three defensive players chosen from Egidio Arevalo Rios, Walter Gargano, Diego Perez and Alvaro Gonzalez, all South Africa veterans.

Tabarez has said he feels no guilt espousing defensive tactics: “We work very well in defence, I love that kind of thing. I’m not ashamed, as if to play defensively were a bad word.

“Football is defence and attack and attacking is very much linked to what one does in defence, and we don’t have a team to take the game to our opponents, nor that many players.

“As a small country, we don’t have many options. When you find something that works for you, you stick to it.”

The reliable Fernando Muslera is still in goal and the defence is still built around captain Diego Lugano, partnered in the centre by a maturing Diego Godin, with Maxi Pereira at right back and Martin Caceres on the left, which points to a settled, if not hugely gifted, side.

Generational turnover comes in the form of forwards Gaston Ramirez and Christian Stuani, while Nicolas Lodeiro is a more creative alternative to Rodriguez in the attacking midfield role.

Uruguay are more than the sum of their parts, even if they boast one of the world’s best players in Suarez.

Five to watch:

Diego Lugano, centre-back (released, last with West Bromwich Albion); Age 33; 91 caps. The team’s long-standing captain represents the traditional Uruguayan style of play, based more on temperament and strength than refined technique. He fights hard for every ball, making his presence felt at the back and pushing forward when the team are down. Has nine international goals. Was released by West Bromwich Albion last week.

Diego Godin, centre-back (Atletico Madrid); Age 28; 75 caps. Belongs to a select group of about a dozen players who have been with Tabarez from the start of the coach’s second tenure, which began in 2006. Usually keeps a low profile, but is a physical defender with good control. Scored the goal that clinched the Spanish league title for Atletico and netted in the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.

Luis Suarez, forward (Liverpool). Age 27; 76 caps. One of the best players in the world on current form, but now faces a race against time to be fit for the World Cup. A fast, nippy striker who likes to pick up the ball deep and attack from the wings, he was in scintillating form in England last season, helping Liverpool vie for their first championship since 1990 after putting controversial behaviour behind him. Became the first player for more than a decade to score 30 Premier League goals in one season.

Diego Forlan, forward (Cerezo Osaka). Age 35; 107 caps. Voted best player of the 2010 finals and twice winner of Europe’s Golden Boot, he is going to his third World Cup. A cool-headed finisher who scores from close in or outside the box, he moved to Japan this year from Brazil’s Internacional and also had stints in England with Manchester United and Spain.

Edinson Cavani, forward (Paris Saint-Germain) Age 27; 60 caps. Known as “El Matador”, he moved to Italy from Danubio at 20 to play for Palermo, before making his big move to Napoli in 2010 after the South Africa World Cup. Fast with good close control, difficult to dispossess, he is also a good header. Like Suarez, he hails from Salto.

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Published: May 25, 2014 04:00 AM

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