Uruguay: The little nation taking on the footballing world

Victory in the recent Copa America tournament saw Uruguay return to the stage as a footballing superpower. Their spirited brand of football, characterized by high energy and fearlessness saw them take on the nations of arguably the strongest footballing region in the world and win.

Spirit is riding high in Montevideo, after their impressive fourth place showing at last summers World Cup, the little giants of the footballing world, were even more impressive in the Copa America, thus propelling themselves to fifth in the world rankings and making them the dark horses for the 2014 World Cup in Rio.

Since the good times prior to the 1950‘s, Uruguay have been condemned to mediocrity. It has been a bitter blow to take with their proud sporting history, but hardly surprising for a nation of little over 3.5 million people. You simply cannot expect a nation that small to keep producing quality year after year.

The resurgence in the past few years has to be credited to head coach Oscar Tabarez, the veteran who has brought the good times back to Uruguay. The transition began in the 2007 Copa America where they narrowly missed out on the final through a penalty shoot-out. Tabarez pondered how in such a small nation, it was possible for them to keep hold of their talents and their identity on the world stage. His tactic was to change their game plan to match the weaknesses and strengths of their opponents and this adaptability has certainly paid off.

He installed a high team spirit, which is unrivalled by teams littered with star names and individuals. Tabarez used every player in his squad during the Copa America, making every player feel important and part of the cause, and his side responded to this brilliantly. Uruguay play and win as a team. This team spirit is only set to increase as the side will spend a month together at next years Olympics and in the Confederations Cup in 2013.

They are strong throughout the side, with young keeper Fernando Muslera commanding at the back, and players like Diego Lugano and Alvaro Pereira providing experience and quality. Players like Diego Forlan and Lugano aren’t getting any younger though, but that shouldn’t worry Uruguay, as they seem to have a wealth of riches at the present time.

They have Edinson Cavani, who was injured during this tournament, to come into the side and bolster their strong attack. Their under-17 and under-20 squads have also done well at recent tournaments, Uruguay seem to have a conveyor belt of young players moving to the senior side. Sebastian Coates looks like he could ultimately be Lugano’s successor, while playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro, and striker Abel Hernandez would fit comfortably into a Uruguay side in the future. Tabarez again has to be given credit here, as  he was the one that came up with the project to identify technically gifted youngsters and develop them through the country’s youth sides. Recent results show that they are heading in the right direction, and if they continue to produce exceptional talent of the class of Luis Suarez then they will continue to punch above their weight on the world stage.

Tabarez has instilled balance, team spirit and a hard working nature to this Uruguay side and if he can keep the main core of this golden generation together then they will certainly be a side to be feared over the next few years.
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