The 6th best team in the world according to FIFA’s rankings, Uruguay have been matched at the same price as England by many bookmakers to win the World Cup. After finishing fourth in the 2010 tournament in South Africa, many pundits believe the Uruguayans could once again prove to be tough opponents.
They needed a play-off victory over Jordan to get there, but Uruguay will be at the World Cup in Brazil, and will face England in their second match of Group D.
Brazil automatically qualified for the tournament as hosts, but if they had to qualify with the rest of South America, Uruguay would likely have failed to reach the finals. However, Oscar Tabarez just about lead them to the tournament and now England must face the unpredictable La Celeste.
With many of their top players scattered around the World’s top leagues, not many England fans, or Roy Hodgson, would have had a chance to see the nation play. But what they will have seen are the individual talents the country boasts.
Here are three that could threaten England’s hopes of success in Brazil.
What can be said about this forward that isn’t obvious to Roy Hodgson already? One of the deadliest strikers in world football, let alone the Premier League, Luis Suarez was probably the first thing Hodgson thought about when he saw England called out during the draw. After missing the first five games of the season through suspension, some fans wondered how the striker would come back into his Liverpool side, pondering whether he would be at full match fitness and sharpness. They couldn’t have imagined what has happened since.
The 26-year-old is the Premier League top scorer with 17 goals from just 11 appearances, including two hat-tricks. In the sharpest form of his life, Suarez has terrorised defences this season, be it English defenders or some of the world’s best. He has scored headers from 18 yards out, volleys from 40 yards, and dribbled his way past multiple defenders on his way to make himself one of the most feared forwards in world football.
Suarez was looking to leave the Reds during the summer for a team playing in the Champions League, and is likely he will want to move again should Liverpool fail to qualify for the elite European competition. With the chance to highlight his talent in Rio, and raise more interest in him, if that’s even possible, we could see Luis Suarez at his hungriest (no pun intended!)
After scoring 78 Serie A goals in just three seasons with Napoli, Edinson Cavani was one of the most wanted strikers over the summer transfer window. Despite interest from Manchester City and Chelsea, the Uruguayan moved to PSG for over £50million, where he’s continued to find the back of the net. 11 goals in 14 Ligue 1 matches, as well as four from five in the Champions League, has proved that Cavani can score against any defence in any league.
Strong in the air and deadly with the ball at his feet, defenders can’t help but back off in fear. The forward is a match winner, and a man who can change the game from just a half chance. But one of the most worrying things for Roy Hodgson is his relationship with Suarez. One of the most feared strike partnerships in International football, the pair seem to interchange seamlessly, and have a great knowledge of how the other plays. In one blink, Hodgson may just see the pair run rings around his English defence.
One slip up, one poor pass or one goalkeeper fumble, that’s all it can take to let Cavani pounce and punish you. There’s a reason he was wanted by Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, and it’s because he knows how to finish. With a goal against Chelsea and three against Manchester City in the 2011/12 Champions League, Gary Cahill, Joe Hart and Joleon Lescott all know just how good he is.
Football isn’t always about tricks and skills. Sometimes it’s about strong, old fashioned defending. Diego Godin is one of those players. An experienced head at the back for Uruguay, the 27-year-old is currently playing in the joint best defence in La Liga. Only Barcelona have conceded the same amount of goals as Godin’s Atletico Madrid, with both teams allowing just nine shots to hit the back of the net from 15 matches.
A rock for Atletico over the last four seasons, Godin has been a crucial player for the Spanish side. His ability to read the play and intercept attacking passes has saved both his club and nation from conceding, as well as leading to a counter attack of their own. Wayne Rooney may still be looking for his first World Cup Finals goal when these two teams face each other, and an in-form Godin could keep the United forward waiting.
In an ageing Uruguay defence, Godin is one of the fastest defenders likely to go to the World Cup with manager Oscar Tabarez. The 27-year-old played in five of Uruguay’s six 2010 World Cup fixtures, as they finished in fourth place, narrowly losing their semi-final to Holland 3-2 after beating Ghana on penalties the round before. The Atletico defender will surely be keen to go one further this time out, and deny England from reaching the knockout stage.