Uruguay are through to their first World Cup Quarter Finals in forty years. The Charruás defeated the Korean Republic courtesy of a brace from striker Luis Suárez. With Suárez and his strike partners, Diego Forlán and Edinson Cavani, in fine form Uruguay may even by considered as the favourites to progress to the Semi Final.
That Uruguay has made it to the latter stages of the competition is an impressive feat. A country with a population of 3.4 million, Uruguay can not count on the same resources and recent pedigree of their continental rivals. They can, however, count on the efforts of their manager Óscar Tabárez. The veteran coach is currently enjoying his second stint as the coach of the national side, having spent the intervening years at Boca Juniors, Cagliari and AC Milan amongst others. The Montevideo born manager has called upon perhaps the most talented generation of Uruguayan players since the triumph of 1950.
The world has long been acquainted with the talents of Diego Forlán. The striker, twice the holder of the Pichichi, was seen as the only Uruguayan player of world class calibre until Luís Suárez’s astonishing tally of goals for Ajax brought Suárez to the attention of the footballing world. With Forlán playing in a supporting role behind Suárez and Edinson Cavani of Palermo, Uruguay command one of the most prolific attacking trios in the tournament.
Uruguay’s success is not built on these three forwards, however. The Charruás have been organised by Tabárez into a solid defensive unit. Uruguay have yet to be beaten in the competition, despite having controlled possession under 45% of the time in each of their four games to date. Credit must be accorded to team’s captain Diego Lugano. The ferocious defender marshals a back four which is notable for its resolve. Lee Chung Yong’s goal this afternoon marked the first occasion the team has conceded at the World Cup so far.
The back-four of Lugano, Godín, Fucile and Maxi Pereira is protected by a combative and composed midfield. Alvaro Pereira, Diego Perez and Egidio Arevalano do not offer much to Uruguay creatively but are supplemented by the prodigious Nicolas Lodeiro, who has an unrivaled intelligence for a player of his age.
The group stage confirmed what many already believed, that this Charruás team is the most complete Uruguayan side since the side that stunned the Maracana in 1950. In a recent interview, Alcides Ghiggia, the man who scored the winning goal in that tournament, remarked that this team has the capability to mount a serious challenge for the nation’s third World Cup triumph.
Ghiggia himself was speaking in South Africa just after receiving the FIFA Order Of Merit award for his part in the 1950 campaign. The Charruá speaks of that monumental day when Uruguay upset the hosts Brazil and his pivotal contribution with the verve of a man less than half his age.
“Three people have silenced the Maracana”, he said, “the Pope, Sinatra and I”. Suárez, Forlán and co are unlikely to replicate his achievements but they have the talent to pose a significant threat to any side now.