After crashing out of the quarter finals in the 2019 edition and also the World in 2018, Uruguay will look to amend the quarterfinal curse and make their name at the 2021 edition of the Copa America in which the new format makes it easier for them to qualify for the knockout stages.
Spearheaded by veterans Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, La Celeste will again depend upon these two to take them forward with their poacher instinct under the leadership of Diego Godin, who is enduring a tough season with Cagliari and will mostly likely play in his last tournament for his country.
WHO IS URUGUAY’S MANAGER?
Once a primary school teacher, after an uninspiring playing career, Oscar Tabarez is in his second stint as the manager of Uruguay since 2006 after a brief spell between 1988-1990. Under him, Uruguay has seen tremendous resurgence as a force to be reckoned with in world football, with him managing the team for over 200 matches.
Oscar Tabarez (Image Courtesy: FIFA / Website)
While South America’s football is about flair and footwork, Uruguayan football under Tabarez is about grit and desire. And that is seen in the setup of his side in any game, a standard 4-4-2, where everyone, including their talisman Luis Suarez must work hard and run for the whole ninety minutes. That was evidently seen in the 2010 World Cup when Suarez deliberately handled the ball that was goal bound and was sent off for his actions.
Fans in Uruguay literally say “With Óscar Tabárez at the helm, anything is possible.” Maybe, that can come to fruition this time around.
URUGUAY PROBABLE SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera, Martin Campana, Kevin Dawson
Defenders: Diego Godin, Martin Caceres, Jose Maria Gimenez, Sebastian Coates, Diego Laxalt, Matias Vina, Agustin Oliveros
Midfielders: Rodrigo Bentancur, Federico Valverde, Lucas Torriera, Matias Vecino, Nahitan Nandes, Girogian De Arrascaeta, Gaston Pereiro
Attackers: Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Cristiani Stuani, Jonathan Rodriguez, Maxi Gomez, Darwin Núñez
With Edinson Cavani fit again, Tabarez will be happy but might have selection issues. (Image Courtesy: FIFA / Website)
The biggest headache that most likely Tabarez would have is whether to field Edinson Cavani from the start or bring him on as an impact sub. The forward has done very well in his time at Manchester United with ten goals and quite a few assists to his name.
Even though Edinson Cavani is fit and firing, Luis Suarez is still the go-to-man of that side. Suarez has literally been the talisman for the current La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, albeit them having dropped points after having a healthy lead in 1st place.
16 – Luis Suárez 🇺🇾 has scored 16 goals in his first 17 games for Atlético de Madrid in LaLiga, becoming the fastest player to reach 16 goals for the same club in the competition in the 21st century (Cristiano Ronaldo 🇵🇹 – 15 goals for Real Madrid in 2009/10). Amazing. pic.twitter.com/wHbLRFdA7P
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 8, 2021
His 19 goals in the league, which puts him 5th in the race for the Pichichi Trophy, have helped Atletico hold that top-spot for a while and will hope that he continues to do so. For Uruguay, Suarez has been nothing short of sensational. Popping up with goals whenever required, but he is still remembered for his biting incident and his red card for handling the ball in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinal.
Darwin Núñez might have only played 4 games for Uruguay, with the last one coming in November 2020, but is earmarked as the heir to ageing forwards Suarez and Cavani. Although both of them are still fit and running at 34, it is inevitable that retirement must come at some point in time and Núñez is the one to follow in their footsteps.
Homem do Jogo! ⭐️
🇺🇾 Darwin Nuñéz came off the bench and just four minutes later put Benfica 2-1 up v Portimonense.
5️⃣ Jorge Jesus’ men ran out 5-1 winners in the end! pic.twitter.com/xLakrFeEKj
— Próxima Jornada (@ProximaJornada1) April 22, 2021
The lanky striker, who has 6 goals and 6 assists in 24 appearances for Benfica after moving in the summer for a club record €24 million, also scored 2 times for La Celeste and will be looking forward for the tournament in June and have a long-lasting impact.
Uruguay’s record at the Copa America is unbelievable, to say the least. They have won the competition 15 times, the highest, one more than Argentina. However, their last trophy win came in 2011 and in the previous two editions, they have not performed as expected from a Uruguayan national side.
Uruguay after winning the 2011 Copa America. (Image Courtesy: FIFA / Website)
In 2015, they barely scraped through to the quarterfinals after qualifying as the best 3rd placed team but still crashed out in the quarters after losing to eventual champions Chile. It was worser in 2016, the Centenario edition, as Uruguay didn’t not even qualify to the knockouts after finishing 3rd in their group. Similar results occurred in 2019 when minnows Peru defeated them on penalties in the quarters again.
After Australia and Qatar, the two invited teams, pulled out owing to scheduling issues, the tournament is set to continue with 10 teams divided into two groups of five. Uruguay are grouped with Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Paraguay. Looking at those teams, Uruguay will most probably qualify for the knockout stage, but the difficulties are set to arise after that as anyone can face anyone based on their placement in the groups.
Uruguay, as it has been for decades, has a solid first XI and a competent bench strength that can make their way to the latter rounds of the knockout stages. With a number of highly experienced stars in their squad, Tabarez will rely on these to take Uruguay forward and win their 16th Copa America.
We, at FootTheBall, predict a semi-final appearance at the minimum, and if conditions are to help them then they could go on to win the tournament.