Our Copa America previews continue with a closer look at the World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay.
Considering Uruguay has a population of two million less people than Scotland a trophy cabinet bursting with brace of World Cups and 14 Copa América titles is none too shabby at all. Now la Celeste Olímpica are gearing up to kick on from their semi-final appearance in South Africa 12 months ago. With a proud tradition of upsetting the odds it would take a brave punter to back against Uruguay bloodying the noses of the big boys once again.
Momento de gloria
It took something special to top beating Argentina on route to winning the 1987 Copa América in Buenos Aires, it came when Uruguay hosted the tournament eight years later. This edition of the Copa América was seen as a swansong for the greatest Uruguayan player of the modern age, Enzo Francescoli. The talent of el Príncipe even convinced Zinedine Zidane to name his first child Enzo. Uruguay got off to flyer in 1995 with Francescoli and Gus Poyet among the scorers in a 4-1 win over Venezuela. The goals continued to pour as they steamrolled through to the final where they defeated Brazil on penalties in el Estadio Centenario.
El director técnico
During his playing days Óscar Tabárez was the kind of uncompromising defender Uruguay has a long-standing tradition of producing. El Maestro has long since surpassed his on the field activities during a distinguished coaching career spanning 30 plus years. Tabárez has won the Copa Libertadores with Peñarol, led Uruguay to two World Cups, played gaffer to Diego Maradona at Boca Juniors and had a go on the reins at AC Milan. El Maestro is actively involved in all of Uruguay’s youth teams as well as the senior squad, ensuring every side that pulls on the sky blue plays his way. Just as well then that the style Tabárez favours is deploying three strikers in an effort to constantly ask questions of the opposition.
What Tabárez has in Diego Lugano is a man ready to risk life and limb to prevent his team from conceding. El Maestro is the first to admit that Lugano is twice the defender he ever was, the current skipper of la Celeste is more comparable with Paolo Montero and Hugo de León. Lugano is possibly the only player in the world whose nickname is a meaningful acronym; TOTA stands for Talento, Orgullo, Tecnico, Ambicion. Adored by fans of Fenerbahçe where he has vowed to see out his career, Lugano scored a crucial goal in Uruguay’s World Cup play-off against Costa Rica to ensure la Celeste travelled to South Africa.
Edinson Cavani was tipped for great things after walking away with the golden boot at the 2007 South American under-20 Championships. El Matador’s subsequent move to Palermo saw him show flashes of awesome potential combined with prolonged periods out of the starting XI. At the beginning of last season Cavani transferred to Palermo’s southern Italian rivals Napoli and over the course of the campaign defied all expectations. On route to an end of season tally of 26 goals Cavani found the onion bag in every imaginable way. Napoli are going to find it very tough to carry on refusing the mouth watering offers coming in for Serie A’s 2010/11 leading goalscorer.
Look up journeyman footballer in the dictionary and the chances are you will see Sebastián Abreu staring back at you. Look up Uruguayan legend and you will find the same face. El Loco would need five hands to count the number of teams he has played for across the globe. As the whole of Uruguay waited on Abreu to step up and strike the decisive spot kick against Ghana every one of them had them same thought. Surely he won’t hit his trademark Antonín Panenka penalty and casually chip the ball down the middle of the goal. Of course he did! For anyone needing further prove of Abreu’s status in Uruguay and with fans of Nacional in particular, type ‘cumbia del loco’ into YouTube.
Despite already having scored goals against Inter and AC Milan for Palermo there was no place on the plane to South Africa for Abel Hernández. A year later however, La Joya is an important part of la Celeste’s set-up and with father time against both Abreu and Diego Forlán his role with the squad will undoubtedly increase as the 2014 World Cup approaches. With Hernández around there is no need for Uruguay to abandon their commitment to playing three up top any time soon.
The absence of defenders Jorge Fucile of Porto and Carlos Valdez of Peñarol highlight Uruguay’s strength at the back. Sebas Fernández and Gastón Ramírez will also be licking their wounds after being cut at the last minute by Óscar Tabárez.
Rumores de transferencia
Diego Forlán to Tottenham Hotspur, Edinson Cavani to Manchester City, Diego Godín to Chelsea, Nicolás Lodeiro to Liverpool.
The split earlier this month of Diego Forlán and Argentine model Zaira Nara is still massive news on both sides of the La Plata estuary. The couple called off their engagement 40 days before the date they were set to be wed and neither party has yet revealed why. Zaira looked all set to follow in her sister’s footsteps who is married to former Argentina striker Maxi Lopez before the plug was pulled on her nuptials with Forlán.
Síguelo en Twitter
@luis16suarez - I am convinced we will fix it up in Anfield. Let's work hard now!
La opinión experta
Uruguay are the favourites to win Group C but in a tournament such as the Copa América you would be a fool to say anything is for certain. We know a lot about Sergio Markarián, the Uruguayan coach of Peru and how difficult his teams are to beat. As for the other two, Chile will do well not to suffer after Marcelo Bielsa’s exit and Mexico come with an unknown team. These are teams we really should be beating but I still fear what the effect of one bad result could be on the squad. For example, we know Diego Forlán is having a tough time at the moment so we need the squad’s morale to stay high. We need to have Forlán playing at the level he showed in the World Cup where he proved himself to be a real star of Uruguayan football. I have my concerns over our defence and goalkeeper but we are blessed with some other strikers apart from Forlán at the moment. We have Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez but I also hope Tabarez gives Abel Hernández a chance because I think he carries with him that element of surprise and unpredictability that can really upset the opposition.
Diego Muñoz - 180.com.uy
Fans of la Celeste have got used to seeing their team do it the hard way, especially when it comes to facing their continental rivals. A string of solid performances to show that the team are on track to avoid a fourth consecutive play-off tie for a place at the next World Cup should satisfy realistic expectations.
Uruguay comes to Argentina with 19 members of the squad that finished fourth at the last World Cup. There’s no doubt these players will make it through to the semi-finals of this tournament as well, but that’s as far as it goes. Winners of the third-place play-off.
¿Por qué ser fanático?
Uruguay has marked itself out as the most progressive country in South America with a string of recent laws and initiatives. Not only was it the first country in the continent to rule in favour of same-sex marriage but it has also embarked on a project to provide every school child with a computer. Uruguay’s military is largely supported by international finance on account of the majority of their troops being deployed as UN Peacekeepers.
¿Un club en League Two?
It’s hard not to sympathise with a team that lives in the shadow of noisy neighbours on either side. Macclesfield Town can take comfort from the fact Uruguay have shown time and time again that’s it possible to keep up with the jumbo Joneses down both ends of the street.
Chuck some clericó down your throat whilst chomping down on a tasty portion of chivito. Now you’re feeling like the Count of Montevideo it’s time to crank up the candombe and rock down to avenida 18 de Julio!
Organisers of the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil can take solace from the fact that concerns over construction deadlines at sporting events is no recent phenomenon. Right up until the kick-off of the first World Cup in 1930 there was a sweat on over the completion of el Estadio Centenario in Montevideo. Despite the world being in the grip of a debilitating financial crisis at the time the ground was good to go by kick-off. Over 80 years later the stadium remains one of the best places in the world to watch football.
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Lazio, ITA), Juan Castillo (Colo Colo, CHI), Martín Silva (Defensor Sporting, URU).
Defenders: Diego Lugano (Fenerbache, TUR), Diego Godín (Atlético de Madrid, ESP), Mauricio Victorino (Cruzeiro, BRA), Andrés Scotti (Colo Colo, CHI), Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica, POR), Martín Cáceres (Sevilla, ESP), Sebastián Coates (Nacional, URU).
Midfields: Egidio Arévalo Ríos (Botafogo, BRA), Diego Pérez (Bologna, ITA), Sebastián Eguren (Sporting Gijón, ESP), Walter Gargano (Napoli, ITA), Álvaro Pereira (Porto, POR), Nicolás Lodeiro (Ajax, NED), Álvaro González (Lazio, ITA), Cristian Rodríguez (Porto, POR).
Forwards: Diego Forlán (Atlético Madrid, ESP), Luis Suárez (Liverpool, ENG), Edinson Cavani (Napoli, ITA), Abel Hernández (Palermo, ITA), Sebastián Abreu (Botafogo, BRA).
v Perú 04/07/2011 19:15 San Juan
v Chile 08/07/2011 19:15 Mendoza
v México 12/07/2011 21:45 La Plata
FIFA ranking: 7
Odds to win: 11/1
Copa America record: P183 W106 D23 L54 F386 A205
Copa America best: 14 time champions
More teams will follow in this daily series. Plus, for more on Copa America 2011, listen to The South American Football Show.