As part of PortuGOAL’s series looking at Portugal’s Group H opponents at the Qatar World Cup, the focus turns to Uruguay.
Uruguay knocked the Seleção out of the 2018 World Cup, and several familiar faces from that side are still part of the South American team.
Uruguayan football expert Álvaro Perez tells us what we need to know about the team Portugal play on 28 November at the Lusail Iconic Stadium.
Ones to watch - Who are Uruguay’s star players?
Outside of Luis Suarez (Nacional) and Edinson Cavani (Valencia), the players most growing in popularity would be Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid) and Darwin Nuñez (Liverpool).
There’s also Ronald Araujo (Barcelona), who may actually be fit for the tournament.
Formation and playing style – what system do Uruguay usually play? Would you describe them generically as an attacking or a defensive team?
Since Diego Alonso came on as Uruguay’s manager, it’s been said that he “freed” the younger midfielders, and even defenders to attack. Uruguay has tried to take control of games in a way that wasn’t seen very often under Oscar Tabarez (2006-2022).
Having said that, I think we haven’t had a chance to see the team’s adaptive abilities at all. Alonso took over very late in the campaign, and only had a few friendlies to essentially test out some new systems.
My concern has to do more with the individual players. Will the young players respond to the pressure? Can Suarez, Cavani and Godin rise to the occasion despite playing younger opposition? With this tournament, I find that anything could happen.
My predicted starting XI (4-4-2): Rochet; Coates, Josema, Rodriguez, Olivera; Valverde, Bentancur, Vecino, Pellistri; Suarez/Cavani, Darwin
If the World Cup trophy was awarded to the country with the best presentation of their World Cup squad, there is little doubt Uruguay would be crowned champions of Qatar 2022
Mood in the camp – do you think Uruguay come into the World Cup in a confident frame of mind?
The mood in the camp has been very positive. There’s a feeling that key players are in great form in their clubs in Europe. Moreover, you have veteran players like Godin, Suarez, and Cavani leading the ship, so people feel that the younger players will be taken care of.
Overall, it’s a very special moment in the lives of these players. In Uruguay, players are raised from early childhood on stories of La Celeste’s World Cup history dating back to hosting the inaugural tournament, so this tournament means the everything to them.
What was the reaction in the Uruguayan media and among the fans to the World Cup draw?
The first reaction was a reminder that Uruguay played all three nations (relatively) recently in knockout games. Each match carries a lot of memories for Uruguayans (Korea in 2010, Ghana in 2010 and Portugal in 2018), so this sort of feels like a bit of a “rematch group”.
Other than that, the reaction was that it’s going to be a tight group versus some exciting rivals. I watched a report by Uruguayan journalists of all three teams, and the one they were the most impressed with was Portugal, stating they had stars in nearly every position.
Prediction time! Give us your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th place predictions for Group H.
I’d like to think that Uruguay and Portugal can make it out, but a World Cup is just different emotionally. Playing Ghana and South Korea will not be easy. I’d be happy just getting out of the group.
Our thanks to Álvaro. To keep up to speed on all things Uruguayan football, be sure to follow him @UruguayFootENG on Twitter.