Uruguay: Time for a SequelBy: Juan Mesa
HOW DID THEY GET HERE: Uruguay qualified to Brazil 2014 after beating Jordan in the Intercontinental Playoff — the third time in the last four qualifiers the Charrúas have made their way to the World Cup via the extra match series. They had finished fifth in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, correcting a slow start in the final stretch with away victories over Venezuela and Perú, and home triumphs over Colombia and Argentina. The best part of their comeback? They did it without removing beloved coach Óscar Tabárez, on the job since 2006.
BIGGEST STRENGTH: In a world where Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t exist, forward Luis Suárez would have everything to claim the soccer king throne. Gifted and tigerish, the Liverpool star comes to Brazil at the peak of his career, right after being named Player of the Year in the English Premier League. He will be accompanied by PSG’s Edinson Cavani, an effective scorer by ground and air. The best player of the last World Cup, Diego Forlán, is also in the roster.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: It’s hard to find weaknesses in this version of the Uruguay team, but the most evident one is the lack of consistency in goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. The Galatasaray’s man tends to play hero and villain: he can stop a penalty kick and drop a ball in the box in the same game.
WORLD CUP CHANCES: Uruguay is the one of the toughest and more resilient national teams in the history of the sport. La Celeste may just reach the final out of the energy of their own myth. Uruguay already won in Brazil, in 1950, and that “Maracana Ghost” is the big motivator this time.
FUN FACT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Coach Tabárez’s nickname is “El Maestro” (The Master), but it has little to do with his wide knowledge of the game or the skills he showed as a player in the 70’s. He owes it to his time as a schoolteacher, a profession he combined with soccer for many years. Besides coaching the Charrúas in three World Cups (1990, 2010 and this year’s), he has managed AC Milan and Boca Juniors. His coaching motto? “The journey is the reward.”
IF THEY WERE A SONG, IT WOULD BE: “Heroes” by David Bowie, a classic tune for a soccer classic.