Group A: Uruguay have the attacking bite to go far

With Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani in form the original World Cup winners look strong

Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani could inspire Uruguay to big things at this year’s World Cup. Photo: XIN LI/Getty Images

Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani could inspire Uruguay to big things at this year’s World Cup. Photo: XIN LI/Getty Images

 

Uruguay (33-1)

Who are they?

The World Cup pioneers are still enjoying the fruits of a golden age which includes the likes of Luis Suarez, Diego Godin and Edinson Cavani but this will most likely be a World Cup swansong for them. The South Americans have lifted the trophy twice (in 1930 and 1950) but went through a barren period from 1970 onwards before a renaissance in South Africa in 2010 when they reached the semi-finals courtesy of Luis Suarez’s hand in a controversial win over Ghana.

World Cup moment

The first ever World Cup took place in Uruguay in 1930 with the teams essentially made up of whatever countries could manage to get there. The final between the hosts and Argentina was a particularly fraught affair with feelings between the countries at an all-time low. Uruguay came out on top with a 4-2 win, sparking riots on the pitch.

How did they get here?

South American qualifying is certainly one of the harder routes to reach the World Cup but Uruguay didn’t have many problems this time around. Wins over Colombia and Chile were the highlights early on before a final game 4-2 win over Bolivia sealed the deal.

The gaffer

Legendary manager Oscar Tabarez, known as El Maestro, leads Uruguay to the World Cup for the fourth time (1990, 2010, 2014 and 2018). The 70-year-old has used a wheelchair since he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome in 2016. No other manager at the tournament knows more about managing expectations at a World Cup but, given their group stage draw and depths of talent, that may be tough this year.

The main man

It’s tough to pick just one but, on merit, it’s probably Suarez slightly ahead of strike partner Cavani (although Cavani was in fact top scorer in qualifying) or charismatic captain Godin. The 31-year-old has scored 25 goals this season for Barcelona, down on his previous two seasons but still very impressive. This could possibly be his last crack at a World Cup so he will be determined to make the most of it.

Uruguay captain Diego Godin isn’t one to pull out of a tackle. Photo: Getty Images
Uruguay captain Diego Godin isn’t one to pull out of a tackle. Photo: Getty Images

The one to watch

Nahitan Nandez - the 22-year-old Boca Juniors midfielder - is quite the hot prospect within the Uruguayan squad after moving up through the ranks since captaining the under-20 side at the 2015 World Cup. Since then he has made 11 appearances for the senior side and earned a move from Penarol in Uruguay to Argentina's Boca Juniors.

The verdict

The two-time champions should qualify from their group and then likely set up a tasty second round tie against either Spain or Portugal. Get through that and a repeat of their 2014 semi-final heroics may be on the horizon.

The squad

Goalkeepers: Martin Campana (Independiente), Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama)

Defenders: Martin Caceres (Lazio), Sebastian Coates (Sporting CP), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Maximiliano Pereira (Porto), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Guillermo Varela (Penarol)

Midfielders: Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Diego Laxalt (Genoa), Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matias Vecino (Inter), Jonathan Urretaviscaya (Monterrey)

Forwards: Edinson Cavani (Paris St-Germain), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta Vigo), Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Cristhian Stuani (Girona)

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