Uruguay is back as one of the favorites
Uruguayan soccer has been reborn in the last eight years and will be one of the candidates to be amongst the top four squads in Russia 2018
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If we only take in consideration the results of the early World Cups of this century and the latest tournaments of the previous one, it would be hard to say Uruguay won two of the first four World Cups. In fact, the South American country was a worldwide soccer reference until 1970, when it reached the semifinals in the first championship held in Mexico. Then, the Uruguayans started what seemed and endless decline.
The nation that won at its own soil the first ever World Cup in 1930, that registered the biggest upset in tournament history beating Brazil, 2-1, at Maracaná stadium in 1950 to claim another title and that had in Ladislao Mazurkiewicz one of the top goalkeepers in the planet in the sixties and seventies, was relegated to obscurity, witnessing how several countries -besides Brazil and Argentina- like Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and even Ecuador surpassed it in the South American rankings.
Uruguay’s comeback to the world’s soccer elite took place in South Africa 2010 when, 40 years after the light blue squad reached the semifinals, achieving the best result by a South American team. The key for the feat was the wisdom shown by Óscar Washington Tabárez.
The veteran head coach built a very solid and organized defense and got the most out of a very explosive offense that saw Diego Forlán shined. Thanks to scoring five goals in the tournament the Uruguayan striker was selected as the World Cup’s Most Valuable Player.
A year later Uruguay also won Copa America, certifying its place at the soccer summit. Since then, the South American squad has stayed at the top. Continuity has been very important. Tabárez, who is still heading the group from the bench, has consolidated the team. The defense keeps being a strong unit and has grown with the addition of center back Diego Godín, who plays for Atlético Madrid at the club level. With a header, Godín is capable of deciding a game in any given free kick. Offensively, Uruguay has found not one but two replacements for Forlán. Luis Suárez, who made his World Cup debut in South Africa when he was 23, and currently plays for FC Barcelona, is the attacking reference. At his side, Suárez has the effectiveness of Edinson Cavani, who has scored this season 27 goals in 26 games with Paris Saint-Germain
The compactness of Team Uruguay was shown in the South American qualifying tournament, in which the light blue squad clinched its berth in Russia 2018 by finishing in second place behind Brazil. The World Cup draw was very good for the Uruguayans. They will play in Group A, the easiest of the tournament, with host Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The predictions are encouraging for them. If Uruguay is capable to win its group avoiding Spain in the round of 16, the chances of reaching the semifinals for the second time in eight years are very probable for the South American team.