Uruguayai??i??s recent friendlies have shown that there is hope for this tiny nation even after star players such as Diego Forlan & Diego Lugano finally call it a day.

It is a great source of amazement to many that a country the size of Uruguay with a little over 3 million people manages to often punch above its weight in competitions such as the World Cup & the Copa America. They have won the former two times which is the same number that the much more fancied Argentines have won & as far as the Copa America is concerned, La Celeste are out on their own with 15 titles to their name.

The majority of their success though came in the first half of the 20th century & since then they have developed a habit of hitting occasional peaks followed by long periods of disappointing performances. This point brings us to the present & a very important period for La Celeste.

Current manager Oscar Tabarez took charge of the national team for a second time in 2006 and has used a core set of players since. The benefits of this policy have been plain for all to see with Uruguay winning the Copa America in 2011 and finishing a very impressive fourth in the World Cup of 2010. But Tabarezai??i??s core group of players comprising the likes of Diego Forlan, Diego Lugano, Diego Perez, et al. have grown old together & there has always been the fear that the 2014 World Cup would mark the beginning of another fallow period for La Celeste.

Though Uruguay managed to negotiate a tough group containing the likes of Italy & England their style of play seemed laboured & a little stale at times and this was exposed quite ruthlessly by a dynamic Colombian side in the round of 16. What this match against Los Cafeteros brought to the forefront was that if Uruguay had to continue enjoying success they would have to promote youth & inject some energy into their side.

This is where the 2013 Under-20 FIFA World Cup comes into the picture, a competition where La Celeste finished as runners up & from where Tabarez is picking his next generation of players. Though these youth level FIFA championships have often deceived in the past as many a promising player has fallen by the wayside, they offer a more accurate description of what lies ahead as far as some of the smaller nations like Uruguay are concerned.

JoseGimenez_(c)_en(dot)wikipedia(dot)org

Jose Gimenez impressed in the 2014 World Cup

Three members of this under-20 side are especially seen as the future of Uruguayan football and they have all been blooded into the senior team at some point of time over the last year. The youngest of the lot Jose Gimenez, was brought into the fold the earliest and he played a vital role in La Celesteai??i??s World Cup journey right from the last leg of qualification through to the finals. He stepped in after Lugano was injured and enjoyed a fine outing in the win over England.

Gimenez plays for Atletico Madrid after signing for the capital based club in 2013 and he will no doubt be helped there with the presence of national team captain – Diego Godin. If Gimenez continues at his current state of development then Uruguay have a defensive mainstay for atleast the next decade.

Another promising youngster is forward Diego Rolan who is probably seen by Tabarez as the natural heir to Diego Forlan. He plays in a similar role, as the second striker & definitely seems more mobile than Forlan. Rolan plies his trade in France with Bordeaux and has enjoyed a more than decent start to the season with four goals & has helped Les Girondins stay in striking distance of Marseille.

But probably the most exciting prospect of all is 20 year old playmaker Giorgian De Arrascaeta. He had been one of the star players of the 2014 Copa Libertadores and had a high impact debut against the South Koreans last month. His ability to make slight angles and pass the ball on the turn has drawn comparisons with Andres Iniesta. He created a whole host of chances in the match against the Koreans and ultimately provided the assist for Gimenezai??i??s winner.

De Arrascaeta could also help in bringing the best out of Edinson Cavani & Luis Suarez who have failed to light up their national team in the way that they have done for their respective clubs. Perhaps the introduction of this prodigy will help Tabarez experiment with a more open & attacking style of play.

Though the performance of these youngsters in the recent friendlies in Asia should be taken with a pinch of salt due to the uncompetitive nature of some of these matches, Tabarez definitely has the raw materials in place to ensure that the next decade for Uruguayan football is as fruitful as the one gone by.

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