Uruguay's style the scourge of England managers

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The Independent Online

"The reason you don't know anything about us," grinned a member of the Uruguayan party, "is that we beat you the last time we came to England. Not many English fans are keen to remember that, you know."

If you blow the cobwebs off the record books, you will indeed find that Uruguay put an end to Bobby Robson's unbeaten England run, with a 2-1 win at Wembley in 1990.

In Britain, the South Americans' reputation for a robust approach to the game that borders on the reckless tends to obscure such triumphs. It also belies a skilful team who have long abandoned aggressive play.

Hector Nuez, the Uruguay coach, took over in June last year after a disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign which rivalled that of England.

Uruguay exhausted two managers in their efforts to qualify, but were squeezed out by Bolivia, who joined Brazil in the finals.

Since then, Nuez has had only six international fixtures in which to develop his team. And a depleted squad has brought him only one win, 1- 0 against Peru. With Nuez's first choices -Enzo Francescoli, Nestor Cedres, Daniel Fonseca, Gustavo Poyet and Ronald Montero - unavailable for many of the matches, he has had to sculpt an inexperienced team to fit an international mould.

Tonight, he can welcome back the old masters, in the hope that the boys, with an average age of 23, will keep their game together enough to balance the side.

But Nuez admitted that his Uruguay is not yet complete. "I would still like to have Ruben Sosa and the injured Eber Moas on my team, so this one is not my definitive Uruguay side," he said.

Still, the young ones have already demonstrated their ability, managing to hold Spain to a 1-1 draw and matching the United States 2-2 before a thunderstorm prematurely ended that match.

As far as the more physical elements of their game is concerned, Nuez referred to an era long gone but not forgotten: "I hope my team recovers the ability to intimidate like they did in the past, but this time through technical abilities. I want a kind of football which is masculine, strong and dynamic, but without evil intentions."

The allure of an England fixture means the big names are in town, led by Francescoli. The blizzards that have hampered the Uruguayans during their south London training sessions this week may have made the South Americans seem a timid team. But now that the gurus have shown up, there may be another forgettable scoreline on the way.

URUGUAY: Ferro (Pearol); Lopez (River Plate), Aguirregaray (Pearol), Gutierrez (Nacional), Montero (Atalanta); Dorta (Pearol), Poyet (Real Zaragoza), Francescoli (River Plate); Cedres (River Plate), Bengoechea (Pearol), Fonseca (Roma).