Uruguay

Population: 3.28 million

Area: 176,215 sq km

Capital: Montevideo

Currency: Uruguayan Peso

Federation: Asociación Uruguaya de Fútbol (AUF) founded in 1900 and affiliated to FIFA in 1923

Registered players: 41,800

Kit colours: Blue shirts, black shorts, black socks

Team nickname: La Celeste (The Sky Blue One)

World Cup honours: winner (1930, 1950), semi-finalists (1954, 1970), fourth (2010), quarter-finalists (1966), second round (1986, 1990), first round (1962, 1974, 2002)

Copa America: Winner (1916, 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1935, 1942, 1956, 1959, 1967, 1983, 1987, 1995, 2011), finalist (1919, 1927, 1939, 1941, 1989, 1999), 3rd (1921, 1922, 1929, 1937, 1947, 1953, 1957, 1975, 2004), 4th (1925, 1945, 1946, 1955, 2001, 2007)

How they qualified for FIFA World Cup 2014: Finished fifth in AMSUD Zone with 25 points behind Argentina 32, Colombia 30, Chile 28 and Ecuador 25, with 7 wins, 4 draws and 5 defeats, 25 goals for and 25 against. Then beat Jordan in a play-off 5-0 away and 0-0 at home.

Top clubs: Penarol, Nacional, Defensor, Danubio

Key players:

FIFA Rank:

Coach:

Uruguay travel to the 2014 World Cup with a certain relish having clinched the 1950 title by beating hosts Brazil 2-1 in the decider at the mythical Maracana stadium.

It was their second World Cup trophy, they have made the semis three times, and have won the Copa America a record 15 times too.

Although Uruguay are reigning continental champions, something went awry during the World Cup qualifying campaign and they had to book their ticket via the back door. Having come fifth in South America, they faced and defeated Jordan with ease in a play-off.

The team is not dissimilar from the one that made the semi-finals at the 2010 World Cup and then won the 2011 Copa America, except that since then two of their players have become global superstars.

Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, despite racism and biting scandals that saw him banned for a total of 20 matches, is scoring at such an astonishing rate that a Ballon D’Or is not out of the question. The controversial striker underwent knee surgery weeks before the Cup, but insists he’ll be fit for the first group game.

Alongside Paris Saint Germain’s mega purchase Edinson Cavani, who also has a ferocious hunger for goals, Uruguay look set to terrorise opposition defences.

With these two and Uruguay’s impressive tournament record, they should be considered a potential winner.

It is difficult to say quite why they struggled during a South American qualifying campain which saw them concede four goals against their rivals on three separate occasions. Colombia beat them 4-0, while Argentina and Bolivia both recorded 4-1 victories over Oscar Tabarez’s side.

Fortunately for Uruguay, group winners Argentina were already qualified when the two sides met and Los Charruas edged them 3-2 on the final day to just make the cut for the play off.

So on paper it looks discouraging for Uruguay ahead of taking on Italy, England and Costa Rica in the World Cup group phase.

Backing up Suarez and Cavani Uruguay can still count to an extent on 35-year-old Diego Forlan, who is now at Cerezo Osaka in Japan, and with five goals at the 2010 World Cup was voted player of that tournament.

Diego Lugano is a different case. The 34-year-old defender, who was recently released by West Brom, seems a liability at times but is firmly installed as the team captain.

The midfield looks stronger with the likes of Cristian Rodriguez of Atletico Madrid and the defensive midfielder Walter Gargano of Parma.

Following the disastrous campaign for the 2006 World Cup former coach Jorge Fossati was ousted in favour of Oscar Tabarez who also occupied the post for the 1990 tournament. The now 67-year-old is still in place.

And Tabarez is a firm believer in his team playing with the staggeringly relentless intentensity and agression known as “garra charrua”.

AFP

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