Uruguay vs England World Cup 2014: Carnival breaks out in Uruguay as fans rejoice at ‘tactical victory’

 

An hour before the 4pm kick-off against England, shops and offices began to close down for the day, while children, dressed in the “celeste and white” of the national flag, rushed home from school; buses were crammed, but, by the time the national anthems were being played, all was still. The country was paralysed; not a soul on Montevideo’s main shopping streets.

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It is winter and cold, but the sun was shining, just as it does on the flags that flap on car aerials and hang in every shop window during the World Cup. “Other countries have their history, Uruguay has its football”, is a famous quote from Ondino Viera, Uruguay’s manager at the 1966 World Cup. Newspaper coverage of Thursday’s match had a running theme: the clash of styles.

South Americans love stereotyping the English as big, strong long-ball merchants, as opposed to the nimble, skilful South Americans. So, commentators were ecstatic when act one went to their script, Luis Suarez scoring after Steven Gerrard had lost the ball owing to his lack of control. When the winner came, the irony of it arriving from a long ball got somewhat overlooked amid the euphoria.

Read more: Five things we learnt from England's defeat
FA confirm Hodgson will stay on until 2016
Dejection for Gerrard as Suarez outshines his team-mate

Ten minutes after the final whistle, the first people began appearing on the streets. It started with a trickle, and then became a carnival. With drums and bongos, the blue-and-white spontaneous procession made its way through the main streets to the Plaza Independencia, Montevideo’s central square. It was a family occasion and the chant they enjoyed drumming and jumping up and down to the most was “Anyone who doesn’t jump is English”, which originates from England’s 1953 tour of Uruguay and Argentina.

 

Of course, Suarez grabbed all the headlines, but El Pais also declared it was “a tactical victory by the maestro”. It added: “Oscar Tabarez planned the match and the players executed it almost to perfection. He won his duel with Roy Hodgson by marking Gerrard tightly. All of England´s play goes through Gerrard, but they have no plan B or plan C, so by stopping Gerrard play, Uruguay stopped England.”

How does this small country still continue to achieve results that are out of all proportion with the size of its population, just 3.3 million? The football federation and clubs have little money, there is no Burton-like modern training complex and the national stadium is a crumbling edifice that’s hardly been touched since it was built in 1930 to host the first World Cup.

It was the Swindon Town manager Sam Allen who first noticed when his team toured in 1912 that “the level of football in and around the River Plate is of a very high level, and how every corner of every street there were little games going on on rock-hard dust pitches”. One hundred years on, that side of Uruguayan football still exists. Uruguay has a lot of open space, and there are little dust pitches, with small goals everywhere, with kids learning how to control the ball in tight spaces. Maybe somewhere in there lies the answer.

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