Uruguay’s veterans Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin, Martin Caceres, Cristian Stuani, and Fernando Muslera are probably playing in their last World Cup. Their generation is fading. But behind them come Darwin Nunez, Federico Valverde, Mathias Olivera, Matias Vina, Sergio Rochet, Facundo Pellistri, Nicolas de la Cruz, and Ronald Araujo. As always, the Garra Charrua persists.
Uruguay has always had an outsized role in global soccer and in particular in World Cups. From this tiny nation, before there was a World Cup, we have the winners of the first two Olympic gold medals ever given for futbol—1924 and 1928—and then the World Cup 1930 and 1950 champions and semifinalists in 1954, 1970, and 2010, including the winner of the awards for top scorer and best player in 2010, Diego Forlan.
We have World Cup lore galore coming from these South Americans—from the 1950 Maracanazo, to Suarez’s Ghana ploy in 2010, from taking the Magical Magyars to extra time in a memorable 1954 World Cup semifinal to back-to-back unforgettable losses in the semifinals to the Dutch (including the controversial goal allowed the Netherlands when Robin van Persie was clearly offsides) and in the Third-Place match to Germany, both in 2010, not to mention, outside the World Cup, that Uruguay is the only 15-time Copa America winners.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will probably be the final cup for the Uruguayan veterans, and we will sorely miss their pretty goals, tenacity, and competitiveness. But right behind them comes a new generation that will ensure the Charruas continue to play an important role in future global competitions. Watch what Nunez has been doing, or for that matter see Valverde do his thing, to pick two obvious examples.
Coach Diego Alonso, who took over the team’s reins from Oscar Tabarez (the longest-serving national team coach at 15 years) in December of last year, has been molding his young guns and veterans into the mix that makes for a very compelling side. They have scored 18 goals in their last nine games and only conceded two. They have also made a point of playing CONCACAF and AFC opponents to get ready for Qatar and have yet to stumble.
Uruguay was placed in Group H in Qatar alongside Portugal, South Korea, and Ghana. The men from the River Plate fear no one but in particular, not Portugal or Ghana whom they have defeated at the World Cup before. It has been a while since the Uruguayans and South Koreans have played each other but in the eight times they met, Uruguay has won six, lost one, and drawn one. In Qatar, progressing from their group is the minimum expectation for these Charruas. If their 2022 form is any indication (7-1-1) they are on track to provide us with some fun in Qatar.
Photo: Federico Valverde, Shutterstock ID 2117027495, by Christian Bertrand