July 26th, 2011
12:54 PM ET

Team spirit makes Uruguay a World Cup contender

Uruguay's players celebrate after beating Paraguay 3-0 in the 2011 Copa America final.
Uruguay's players celebrate after beating Paraguay 3-0 in the 2011 Copa America final.

Size isn’t everything. If it was, there would be no way Uruguay could ever be as successful as it is at football. Despite a population of only 3.5 million people, the tiny South American nation has recently enjoyed a spectacular renaissance, making the semifinals of the World Cup last year and winning a record 15th Copa America title last weekend.

How has this happened? A lot of people have pointed to the fantastic performances of star players Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. However, there is more to it than that.

The fact is "La Celeste" are a team in all senses of the word. They play as a team, they fight as a team and they win as a team. Therefore, a lot of the credit has to go to the man known as "El Maestro" - veteran manager Oscar Washington Tabarez.

Last year, when Uruguay were on a great run at the World Cup in South Africa, I had a chance to talk to one of the nation’s best players of all time, Enzo Francescoli. I told him how everyone around the world was very surprised that his country had advanced to the semifinals. He told me he wasn’t.

Francescoli, who worked with Tabarez at the 1990 World Cup, said that with the talent in the present squad and such a knowledgeable man at the helm, the sky was the limit for the national side. High praise from "El Principe," who said Tabarez was one of the most underrated coaches in the world of football.

What Tabarez did at the Copa America was impressive. Did you know he used every outfield player in his squad in the competition? By including everyone, he made every single player feel important, feel valuable, feel part of the cause. They responded brilliantly and exceeded expectations - in defense, midfield and attack.

It's understandable why Suarez and Forlan are getting most of the credit for Uruguay’s title-winning run at the Copa. After all, Suarez scored four goals and Forlan pulled the strings in the role of playmaker. The Atletico Madrid striker also equaled his nation’s all-time scoring record by hitting the back of the net twice in the final against Paraguay.

However, this was indeed a true team effort from La Celeste. There are so many unsung heroes, like captain Diego Lugano, midfielder Arevalo Rios or goalkeeper Fernando Muslera.

So what next for Uruguay? The future looks bright and, if the pieces stay in place, we could see them make a title run at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. After all, it was at Rio de Janeiro's famous Maracana stadium where they secured one of their greatest victories of all time: a 2-1 win over the home nation to win football’s biggest prize back in 1950.

So, as traditional South American powerhouses Argentina and Brazil lick their wounds following their disappointing performances at the Copa, and look to turn a new leaf, they could do worse than take a page out of Uruguay’s book.

Because a team is not a collection of individuals; rather it is a solid group where everyone is working for the same cause.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. sesan sorunke

    Pedro,I cannot agree less with your submission. Uruguay will surely be in as title contenders come 2014.

    July 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Reply
  2. josh

    Uruguay gonna take first in World Cup 2014! and I'll be there in the crowd cheering them on! \m/

    July 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  3. Charlie

    I think that is the point of the article. Provided Uruguay maintains most of their players, this team is a World Cup contender in 2014. They have done a spectacular job. If you look at their records, 4 World Titles (2 Olympic and 2 World Cups) and 15 Copa America Champaions; Uruguay are the Champion of Champions.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Reply
  4. mandela

    i watched d uruguay matches,they were astounding.........credit 2 all d players n coach....

    July 27, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Reply
  5. 福建

    I like the team!

    July 28, 2011 at 7:01 am | Reply
  6. edward

    Charlie, you said it right. Back when Uruguay won the Olympic titles football soccer was not a professional sport. The last World Cup Uruguay won was way back in 1950 and only 13 teams played in that tournament. In the group stages Uruguay only had to play Bolivia (which they beat 8-0) because France withdrew from the World Cup a few days before the tournament started. That was the only game Uruguay played in the group stages and then they made it to the final (kind of lucky if you ask me) group stages of the tournament that include 3 other teams (Brasil, Sweden, and Spain). In the final stages they drew Spain 2 – 2, beat Sweden 3 – 2, and beat Brasil 2 – 1.

    By contrast, Brasil was grouped with 3 other teams in group stages. They finished first place which gave them the pass to the final round stages. There, they demolished Sweden 7 – 1, and Spain 6 – 1, and only needed a draw against Uruguay to win the World Cup but Uruguay played a very solid defensive game and with 11 minutes to go they squeaked in a goal and ended champions of the tournament.

    July 28, 2011 at 8:20 am | Reply
  7. jean-marc

    Good article! It is about time Uruguay gets the credit they deserve.

    July 28, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  8. Elizabeth

    Uruguayan team has done a great job!!!!! I LOVE THE TEAM!!!!! They are simply amazing players, all of them with no exception!!!!! keep up the good work!!!!

    July 28, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  9. kentsailer

    How??? Does Brazil merit being ranked in the top five in the FIFA world ranking. Enough already with the love affair with Brazil. They have great individual players, but they are severe underachievers as a team. By the way same thing for England. Brazil looked terrible in the last World cup as did England. Brazil should be 8th or 10th England merits only 11th. Please FIFA rankings should be based on current performance not accomplishments of 10yrs or more ago.Brazil is no longer the best in South America let alone the world. See Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Venezuela. I know already that Brazil will be picked as the front runner of the next World cup. It is not deserved even if they are playing in Brazil.

    July 29, 2011 at 2:40 am | Reply
  10. Oscar

    Edward: you are a little off in your comments regarding 1950 world cup. You missed the fact tha Brazil was winning 1 to 0, tUruguay had to score 2 goals not 1 as you seems to imply. and It was done with 200,000 expectators in the stadium only 11 players + the trainers were uruguayans. Uruguay at that time had a population of 2,100,000 vs Brazil 52,000,000. They were LUCKY? it seems that is always an excuse when Uruguay wins. it has two olympic games it has two world cups and it has 15 Copa Americas. And is always luck?
    very lucky people it seems.

    July 29, 2011 at 3:38 am | Reply
  11. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Congratulations to La Celeste. Super stars matter but football remains a team game. Good luck to Tabarez and his men in the coming world cup in Brazil.

    July 29, 2011 at 8:47 am | Reply
  12. Jason

    Proud of Uruguay... very nice~

    July 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  13. Pedro MIleg

    Uruguai is a contender, yes. Some americans like Uruguai and highlight the team work. Well, that's the only thing americans can see, once they don't have talents on the sport. Besides, the american tradition is much more organization and team work than creativity and geniality, something that Uruguai has.

    July 29, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  14. brian

    The korea is best i think so i can't believe that uruguay won it

    July 31, 2011 at 2:54 am | Reply
  15. Daniel

    These guys are amazing, I watch how the celebrated at the end of each game and celebrated with the fans that went to see them. Players were just as fans as much as the fans themselves, these guys are just so down to earth and simple.. the won the game, picked up the prizes, showered and got on a flight to celebrate at home where they actually filled another stadium that same night to celebrate.. In the process from the airport to the Montevideo Stadium, the players are riding on top of the bus, no fear what so ever to get hurt and end the careers they have with other teams, as much of all of the millions of dollars they are worth and asking fans on the road if they can send them some pizza because they had no time to get any food and all they want is to go to the stadium and share the celebration with as many people as possible... on very, very cold weather after winning a game on another country and that celebration ended sometime like 4:00am... These guys just LOVE footbol and "LA Celeste"

    July 31, 2011 at 8:05 am | Reply
  16. Chris

    Fair play to Uruguay, they deserve it!

    August 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Reply
  17. Capitan Justicia

    Felicidades Uruguay! I love this team! They should get the attention that Univision is always giving to the mediocre Mexican team, because unlike Mexico, Uruguay is actually a winner!!

    August 1, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Reply
  18. holluwarpellummy

    The one thing Uruguay is good at is Team spirit because they have all it takes, a good captain and a dedicated team.Look at it from the 2010 FIFA perspective,although they did not win,they got to the quarters because of their team spirit so they deserve to win something.

    August 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  19. alekona

    The first world cup was in Uruguay! Why is anyone surprised? URUGUAY NOMAS!!!!!!!

    August 6, 2011 at 12:30 am | Reply

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