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Uruguay

Population: 3,300,000
Area: 126,220 km²
Capital: Montevideo
Language: Spanish

 
THE ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
Uruguay finished fifth in the Conmebol league on goaldifference in front of Colombia and secured the right to play-off against Australia for one spot. Uruguay won over two legs.
Click here for details

 
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Participations: (9) 1930, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1986 and 1990
Best placing: Winners 1930 and 1950
Topscorer: Juan Schiaffino, 7 goals
More detailed history information

 
FIRST ROUND MATCHES
Jun 01 - URU v DEN  in Ulsan
Jun 06 - URU v FRA  in Busan
Jun 11 - URU v SEN  in Suwon

 
ONE TO WATCH
Alvaro Recoba is the keyman for this Uruguayan team who has struggled to find the net. He is quick, technically very good and has a gifted left foot. He is also very strong on set-pieces capable of scoring from free-kicks.

 
WCA VERDICT: First round exit
Uruguay are a solid team defensively and are likely to feature in three low-scoring games in this World Cup. France are out of reach for them, but they are in with a chance for that much coveted second place. However, their scoring problems might put them on the earliest possible flight home. We believe so.



MYTH MAKERS SEARCHING FOR A NEW LEGEND


by Matthew Monk


    Uruguay are football's great lost power. To someone growing up in the 1940s or 1950s the name Uruguay meant footballing excellence; it meant skill and verve. Uruguay were the first South American masters of the game. First they came to Europe and beat the Europeans at the Olympics, then they invited the Europeans to South America and beat them there as well - but this time it was for the first World Cup. Afraid of losing their best players to Italy and Spain they largely ignored the 1934 and 1938 contests, but at the first tournament after the Second World War they re-emerged. And they won the World Cup again - this time beating Brazil in the Maracana in front of 200 000 crazy, partisan fans.

    Uruguay were mythical, they were legendary, they were unbeatable. Then they disappeared off the face of the football world, never to return as a success. Sure, Uruguay still have a great record in the Copa America, and they have qualified for their share of World Cups down the years, but a football fan today is as likely to identify Uruguay with the violence of the 1986 version as they are with the sublime skills of Schiaffino, Cubilla or Francescoli. Uruguay are no longer at the forefront of South American futbÚl - in truth they are very much a middling side, well below the standards set by Argentina, Brazil or even Colombia. But at least they are going to Korea.

    The last of the 32 teams to reach the finals, Uruguay did not have the hardest or most convoluted qualification. Far from it, by virtue of finishing fifth in the South American section they were awarded with a play-off against Australia, a relatively straightforward route. Saying that though, Uruguay did have to play 18 games just to get that far. And when you add on the two-legged play-off, and tens of thousands of air miles clocked up flying between Montevideo and Melbourne, the whole hyper extended nature of the modern World Cup becomes clear.

    It was also an incredibly tight qualification. Uruguay only edged out Colombia by one goal, and while they eventually scored three goals against the Australians in Montevideo's famous old Estadio Centenario, the one-nil defeat they suffered in Melbourne meant five sleepless nights for most Uruguay fans.

    Uruguay seemed to struggle to score enough goals - only scoring 19, from 18 qualifiers, tells its own tale. On the other hand though, Uruguay do not concede many goals - even Argentina conceded more than Uruguay's paltry 13. It is strange then that Uruguay's undoubted star player is an attacker, Alvaro Recoba of Internazionale. Reputedly one of the highest (if not the highest) paid players in the world, Recoba has the talent to turn any match he plays in. He has electric pace, and a remarkable touch on the ball, that come together (when he is on form) to make him one of the most feared attackers in Europe.

    It has not always been this way for Recoba though. He may well be sitting at the top of the Italian Serie A right now, and his goalscoring record since March has been outstanding, but going back only 18 months he seemed to be the odd man out at Inter. Stories abounded that Recoba was up for sale, and at a low price. He was supposed to be going to Liverpool one week, the next he was going to Celtic, then he was going back to South America or he may have been staying in Italy, but certainly not at Inter. But he stuck it out, gained a regular place (and a real passport) when Vieri and Ronaldo got yet another injury, and has come on massively ever since. With a fully firing Recoba, Uruguay have a good chance of success in Korea. But on his own Recoba will be able to do little - he is no Maradona or Pelť.

    So who does he have with him? Standing dominant in defence is Paolo Montero of Juventus. Three or four years ago Montero was regarded as one of the strongest, toughest, most uncompromising defenders in Europe. Today he is slower, and less mobile, but nonetheless still as imposing as ever. Unfortunately for the Uruguayans he is also seriously injured - his knee ligament damage should be cleared up by mid April, but no one recovers fully from that type of injury so fast. Without him Uruguay will not be serious contenders. With him, Uruguay will have a chance.

    After Recoba and Montero, Uruguay will look to the likes of Gianni Guigou of Roma, Walter Pandiani of Deportivo and Dario Silva of Malaga to pose problems. But though these players possess lots of ability, they are not regarded as being part of Europe's elite. They will be hard to beat, but will not be unbeatable.

    So a decent, solid side has reached the World Cup Finals. They cannot be classed as probable winners though. How far can they go? Drawn in a tough group, alongside Senegal (recent runners' up in the African Cup of Nations), Denmark (who so nearly eliminated Brazil four years ago) and World and European Champions France, you have to wonder whether the Uruguayans will even reach the Second Round.

    It will be vitally important that Uruguay defeat Denmark in their opening game in Ulsan - a loss here, and they are as good as out already. If they can win (or at least avoid defeat) Uruguay will then face their biggest test, the mighty French in Busan. Now one of two things could happen here. First the French could be looking for a second victory to secure qualification. That would be a hard enough task for Uruguay to face but the second possibility is even harder.

    If France somehow fail against Senegal - and it is not inconceivable that the curse of the opening game could hit, and we could get yet another draw - they will come to the Uruguay game desperate for a win. In either circumstance, it will be a big achievement for Uruguay to stop France winning, and a draw is the best they can hope for.

    So two games in, Uruguay can hope for four points at best, but more realistically will be looking at only one or two. That makes the final game against Senegal do or die. Unfortunately for Uruguay, Senegal will either be out by this stage (and playing for pride) or very much in with a chance of qualification. These are both bad scenarios. Senegal playing for pride is probably as hard as Senegal playing for a place in the last 16. It will take all of the wiles of Recoba, and all of the steel of Montero to see a victory through.

    But just too much is up in the air in this group. Apart from predicting a French victory, this group is much too close to call. If you were forced to pick a second placed team, you would probably go for Denmark, but it is possible for Uruguay to go through. That will be that though.

    Lying in wait for Uruguay (or whoever comes second) is the winner of Group F - and that almost certainly means England or Argentina - and almost certain elimination. Even if Uruguay somehow get past that hurdle, next up come Brazil, and then the French again. This is not going to be a competition Uruguay is going to win.

    Two World Cup victories is something England and France cannot claim. It is something that Argentina have only been able to achieve in the last 20 years. It is a remarkable achievement for a country so small, and so long off of the main stage of football. It is not an achievement Uruguay is going to add to this summer. Instead of counting success in terms of the overall victory though, most Uruguay fans would settle for progress to the last 16, with honour coming in defeat. It is a long way back to the top of the football ladder, and as yet Uruguay are still down on the bottom rungs. Taking a few steps further up would do very nicely this summer.



A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY

by Jan Alsos


    Uruguay were the World Cupís first champions - on home soil in 1930 beating Argentina in a memorable final 4-2. They had dominated world football in the Olympics prior to 1930 so the success was no surprise. They didnít travel to Europe to defend their title in Italy 1934 because the Italians themselves didnít bother to travel to Uruguay four years earlier for the inaugural tournament.

    Uruguay were absent also in France 1938, but were back after the war in 1950 in Brazil. In the first round they faced only one team, Bolivia, and spanked them 8-0. It sent them to the final pool of four where the winners of this mini-league were crowned champions. Brazil and Uruguay met in the last match and the setting was simple. Brazil needed only a draw to become champions, Uruguay needed to win. 200,000 people packed the Maracana stadium in Rio and saw Brazil take the lead. The battling Uruguayans led by captain Varela turned the game and won 2-1 shocking both the home crowd and the footballing world. Uruguay were champions again.

    The World Cup was held in Switzerland four years later and this time Uruguay came to defend the title and came close to succeeding. They went all the way to the semifinals where they needed to field three reserve players against the mighty Hungarians who won after extra time. Many believe a full strength Uruguay would have won this game.

    Uruguayís golden era was over. They qualified for both Chile Ď62 and England Ď66, but didnít impress in any of the tournaments. The semifinal was reached again in 1970, but with defensive methods this time. Only four goals were scored in the six games they played in Mexico. Goalkeeper Mazurkiewicz was their most influential player.

    A first round exit in West Germany 1974 meant a farewell to Uruguay for twelve years. They didnít qualify again until Mexico 1986. This was the year Uruguay lost 6-1 to Denmark and had Batista sent off within a minute against Scotland. Uruguay got a bad reputation which has stuck to them almost to this day. They didnít impress in Italy 1990 either, but reached the second round where Italy stopped further advancement.

 

 

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