Having finished second in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, Uruguay will be hoping to go the distance in the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer.
Under the guidance of manager Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay made it through from the South American qualifiers in second place, ahead of heavy hitters like Argentina and Colombia, highlighting the potential that this group of players possess.
The champions of the inaugural edition of the FIFA World Cup back in 1930, Uruguay went on to win the coveted competition once again in 1950, but have failed to add to the two trophies ever since.
Having crashed out at the last 16 stage against Colombia last time out, La Celeste’s best performance in recent history remains the fourth-place finish in the 2010 edition of the competition in South Africa. Heading into the summer’s main event in Russia though, they will be looking to better their 2010 result.
Group and Fixtures
Drawn alongside hosts Russia in the Group A, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Uruguay are the favourites to top the group.
La Celeste will begin their campaign against Egypt on the 15th of June, before facing Saudi Arabia on the 20th. They will wind up their group stage assignment against Russia, five days later on the 25th.
— Selección Uruguaya (@Uruguay) August 23, 2017
Manager Tabarez has named a 26-man preliminary squad for the competition, which will be trimmed down to 23 for the World Cup. Here are the players that have made the cut;
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama), Martin Campana (Independiente).
Defenders: Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Sporting CP), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Maximiliano Pereira (FC Porto), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Martin Caceres (Lazio), Guillermo Varela (Penarol).
Midfielders: Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matias Vecino (Inter Milan), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Diego Laxalt (Genoa), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Jonathan Urretaviscaya (Monterrey), Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders), Gaston Ramirez (Sampdoria).
Forwards: Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta Vigo), Edinson Cavani (PSG), Luis Suarez (Barcelona).
There were no major shocks or surprises when the Uruguayan squad was announced, with Tabarez sticking to his trusted personnel for the trip to Russia. A mainstay for the team in the past few years, full-back Alvaro Pereira did miss out due to an injury, while Hull City striker Abel Hernandez too was overlooked, after an injury-riddled season.
There was a place in the roster for Nicolas Lodeiro, who plays for the Seattle Sounders in the Major League Soccer, while 19-year old all-action midfielder Federico Valverde, an academy prospect at Real Madrid, has also earned a spot in the preliminary squad.
A solid defence, manned by the Atletico Madrid duo of Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, with a good blend of youth and experience in the midfield department with Cristian Rodriguez, Gaston Ramirez, Matias Vecino and Juventus’ rising star Rodrigo Bentancur to name a few, Uruguay have a solid and talented squad.
However, the biggest drawing cards for La Celeste will be their two front men Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. The Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain frontmen have had excellent seasons for their respective clubs, winning the league titles and plundering goals for fun. A lot will be riding on the shoulders of the Suarez and Cavani, the nation’s top-two leading goalscorers, if Uruguay are to go a long way in the tournament.
Having been in-charge of the team since 2006, the wily 71-year old Oscar Tabarez has done a marvelous job with the South Americans in his second spell, having been the manager once already between 1988-1990.
El Maestro led the team to a Copa America triumph in 2011, ending a 16-year drought in the competition and as was seen in their qualifying campaign for the World Cup, has built a side capable of going toe to toe with the best teams in the world.
Most often than not, Tabarez sets his team out in a 4-4-2 setup with the two central midfielders often made to sit deep and break up play to protect their defence and try to find the wingers when in possession, who are also made to put in the hard yards defensively.
The biggest strength of this Uruguayan outfit is their resilience and the attitude to keep fighting against the odds, which makes them a very hard side to break down defensively. With the experienced Fernando Muslera in goal and a back four comprising of Guillermo Varela, Godin, Gimenez and the versatile Diego Laxalt, there is a look of resoluteness to their backline.
The Serie A duo of Matias Vecino and Bentancur are likely to be tasked with controlling the proceedings in the middle of the park, with the veteran Carlos Sanchez and the young Federico Valverde expected to provide backup.
The quality at the top will be provided by Cavani and Suarez, with support from the likes of Cristian Rodriguez and Cristhian Stuani, who are usually the preferred personnel in the wide areas, along with the young Nahitan Nandez.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Muslera; Varela, Gimenez, Godin, Laxalt; Nandez, Bentancur, Vecino, Rodriguez; Cavani, Suarez;
Not many teams at the FIFA World Cup can claim to have the experience that this Uruguay side possesses. Four players in the squad – Maxi Pereira, Godin, Rodriguez and Cavani, have 100 appearances or more for the national team, while Suarez (97) and Muslera (96) aren’t far behind either. All of them featured in the last two World Cups as well.
Given the rich talent present in the squad, coupled with such vast experience and the pedigree of manager Tabarez, this Uruguayan side has what it takes to go a long way in the tournament. They should be able to navigate the group stages without much hassles and anything less than a quarterfinal appearance would be a major let down.