Saturday, 12 February 2011
When we say Uruguay we think of that other South American country that won a World Cup. More recently we think of Diego Forlan, their antics in South Africa, Suarez’ hand, etc. They were candidates to go out in the first round, but a draw with France and beating Mexico and the hosts meant a pass for the next round. They were, for the first time in years, the best South American team in the tournament. But it came as a surprise to many, and I ask: Why?
Luis Suarez was captain and lead goal scorer in the Eredivisie with Ajax, and now those numbers and his impressive World Cup led him to sign for Liverpool FC. Diego Forlan, probably the most famous Uruguayan nowadays, had a quiet World Cup in 2002 and a bad spell at Manchester United after that. But successful streaks at Villarreal and now Atlético de Madrid put him back on the map becoming one of the most desired forwards in Europe. He almost single-handedly won his team the Europa League and is the main reason Uruguay got to 4th place in the last World Cup, where he was awarded the Golden Ball for Best Player.
Edinson Cavani had a harder time to shine as the third striker in that competition, but his talent did not go amiss to the Napoli directors who signed him this season. And how has it paid off! He is currently the leading scorer in Serie A and has his team in second place, treading on the heels of leaders AC Milan. His teammate Walter Gargano was already a playmaker for the Italian club and was also part of the “Charruas” squad in South Africa.
The back line of Diego Lugano, Diego Godin, Jorge Fucile, Maxi Pereira and Martin Caceres are also having great seasons at their clubs. Known for their strength and precision, Uruguayan defenders are not afraid to “take one for the team”, that’s why they are a reliable force in the back and were also part of that successful team in the World Cup. Fernando Muslera, their Number 1, is protecting Lazio’s goal nowadays, showing great character and confidence at such a young age.
Completing the team are midfield Supremos Diego Perez, Egidio Arevalo and Alvaro Pereira. Arevalo is the only member in the squad to still be playing in Uruguay. Perez (Bologna) and Pereira (Porto) are regulars for their clubs.
So, it is very likely we had just been blinded by the lights of Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney, and Robinho amongst others, not to see this Uruguayan formidable team coming. And it is set to last. The Under-20 squad had just qualified for the London Olympics after 84 years without attending. Last time they went, they brought home the Gold.
This might be the most exciting Copa America in years. Of course Argentina and Brazil still got the advantage of history, but never underestimate the “Charrua” courage. We shouldn’t make that mistake twice.