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Uruguayan football on the rise

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Tim Vickery | 08:44 UK time, Monday, 22 March 2010

In 'Back Home,' his excellent account of the 1970 World Cup, Jeff Dawson does a disservice to the first kings of the global game - after 90 minutes of their quarter-final with the Soviet Union, he writes "the score is that old Uruguayan party piece, 0-0".

Just 16 years earlier, Uruguay produced a very different party piece in the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. They beat Scotland 7-1, ended England's campaign in with a 4-2 win in the quarter-finals, but then fell 4-2, after extra time, to the great Hungarians in the semi-final.

It was the first time Uruguay had lost a World Cup match and six years later, when World Soccer magazine was launched, its inaugural edition carried a feature arguing that this was the greatest match ever played.

In recent decades it has been Brazil who have been renowned for artistic football, but once upon a time this image belonged to Uruguay.

In terms of their global standing, it is unfortunate that the Sky Blues' great days precede the age of television - and that subsequently some of their less attractive antics were beamed into living rooms all around the globe.

Semi-finalists once again in 1970, Uruguay were humiliated in '74, failed to qualify for '78 and '82 but hoped to make a glorious return at Mexico '86. Instead, in the second game, they were embarrassed 6-1 by Denmark.

With so much national pride tied up in prowess on the football field, this was hard to take. An aggressive mentality was a traditional part of their footballing make-up, but this became twisted into an ugly caricature as they took refuge in violence.

If Uruguay's reputation has improved since then, much of the credit must go to Oscar Washington Tabarez, who placed his calm intelligence at the service of his country's football and took charge at Italia '90, producing a ball-playing side without the ugly excesses of four years earlier.

But it is his current second spell in charge of the national team, which has seen them qualify for this summer's finals in South Africa, that looks particularly promising.

Uruguay celebrate qualification for South AfricaUruguary celebrate after beating Costa Rice to qualify for this summer's World Cup - photo: Getty

Tabarez is thinking in the long term, heading a project aimed at identifying technically gifted youngsters and developing them through the country's youth sides. Encouraging displays last year in the under-17 and under-20 World Cups show the project is on the right lines - and the evidence of this year's Copa Libertadores, Uruguayan clubs are also benefiting.

Nacional are one of the country's two giants, along with Penarol. They have won the Libertadores twice, but not since 1988. Last year they became the first Uruguayan club for 20 years to reach the semi-finals, with a team based around the subtle talents of playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro, since sold to Ajax.

With two wins and two draws, they have made a good start to this year's campaign, where the stand out has been another member of last year's under-20 team, gangling centre-back Sebastian Coates.

He was Man of the Match in last week's 2-0 victory away to dangerous Argentines Banfield. His aerial power was decisive - he scored one and set up the other - and he also defended well, especially after his experienced partner Lembo had to go off injured in the first half.

It meant that Coates had to take responsibility for leading the defensive line, and he did it in style.

Nacional have an impressive tradition in the Libertadores, but the same certainly cannot be said for Uruguay's other two entrants this year, Cerro and Racing. These are neighbourhood clubs, Montevideo's equivalent of Leyton Orient.

For them to qualify for the Libertadores is achievement enough - Cerro have taken part only once in the past, Racing are debutants. For them to hold their own in the competition is quite remarkable, but that is exactly what they are doing.

Half-way through the programme, Cerro top their group, while Racing are second in theirs, even though the two Uruguayan minnows can only draw tiny crowds to Montevideo's giant Centenario stadium.

Last week Cerro switched their home game with Internacional of Brazil to the city of Rivera, on the Brazilian border. It meant that they were effectively the away side, but they were comfortable enough in a 0-0 draw, having already beaten one Ecuadorian club at home and another away.

Racing's campaign is even more surprising. After overcoming Colombia's in-form Junior in the qualifying round, they suffered a narrow defeat away to Brazil's mighty Corinthians - Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos and all - but beat Cerro Porteno, Paraguay's most popular club, and last week played out a terrific 0-0 draw in an open and entertaining game away to Medellin of Colombia.

To put this in perspective, this is a club who half-way through the qualifying round lost captain Diego Scotti to the Spanish Second Division.

Hope, though, lies with the youngsters. Racing's most eye-catching figure is Matias Mirabaje, another member of last year's under-20 squad. Strong and with an exquisite left foot, Mirabaje has scored two well struck goals so far in the campaign, and rattled the post from long range against Medellin.

The fact that he is playing for such a tiny club makes Mirabaje a symbol of Uruguay's resurgence and suggests that, if it can keep grooming technically gifted players then this country of just 3.4m people will continue to punch above its weight on the football field - and that, surely, is a better course of action than punching below the belt.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) I would be really interested on your thoughts on Fabio Da Silva. I wonder whether you think that given Manchester United's expectations for full-backs to overlap may preclude a right-footed, left-back such as Fabio from integrating as effectively as his brother ? The game, at the absolute highest level, seems so fast now that it is highly unconventional for a full-back to play on the opposite flank to his natural foot ? Denis Irwin was an exception, but I struggle to think of a truly effective recent example, since even Philip Lahm has flaws.
Matt Savage

A) I remember when I first saw him, three years ago in the South American under-17s. It took me a couple of games to work out that he was right footed - he's very good with his left, far, far better than Philip Lahm. He can hit running crosses on the outside, so I see it as an extra virtue that he can cut in towards goal so well.
With United's tradition for wing play it shouldn't be a problem, as long as there's a left footer higher up to keep the pitch wide. Remember Brazil 82? Junior, right footed, cutting in from left back because Eder on the flank was creating the space.

Q) You have said that Maradona now seems to have settled upon his preferred first 11. With this in mind, will Higuain be spearheading Argentina's attack at the World Cup, as seems likely? Is there any chance that Aguero, Tevez and/or Milito will get a place in the first team, or will Maradona stick with the Real Madrid man, supported by Messi?
Stuart Bird

A) I think the attacking trident will be Higuain flanked by Messi and Di Maria. As options off the bench, this will leave Tevez, Aguero, Milito or Palermo and maybe Lavezzi.

A year or so back Maradona was talking in terms off persisting with the diddy men attack - Messi, Aguero, Tevez - but he said that the only way it could work would be with the time on the training ground that he will only have in the weeks leading up to the World Cup. He will obviously use this time to look at some variations, but that win over Germany has probably solidified his starting line-up.

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Comments

Page 1 of 8

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Having looked on Wiki, I noticed that Penarol haven't won the Uruguay league title for the best part of a decade !
    Is this the longest they have gone without winning a league title ?
    What's been going on with them ?

  • Comment number 3.

    #1 - Phill? I think you may have your blogs mixed up mate!

  • Comment number 4.

    Uruguay have always been a decent attacking force and have produced some great players over the years (Roberto '10 out of 10 for artistic merit' Sosa the exception!), it's just the centre of the park and the defence which has always looked shoddy, i.e. wingers for full backs a la Dario Rodriguez. They would definitely benefit from a player in the mould of Mexico's Gerrado Torrado. Why is it that some South American countries struggle with the defensive side of the game?

  • Comment number 5.

    4# historically uruguay were always very tough defensively.

  • Comment number 6.

    Good blog Tim, how do you see Uruguay getting in South Africa this year? Their group looks very open to me. Mexico and France are talented sides but they've had their problems in qualifying, and of course South Africa are not to be taken lightly as hosts.

    Can you see Uruguay getting through?

    Cheers

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com/

  • Comment number 7.

    Great blog as always Tim.Your knowledge of Latin America football is outstanding.Have you ever thought of becoming a talent scout?

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Tim,

    Very interesting read, especially as an Ajax-fan. I've obviously been very impressed with Luis Suarez form the last few seasons in Holland. He is probably the best player in the league at the moment and has been linked with the likes of Chelsea recently. How is he rated in Uruguay, is he seen as a (future) star, or is he relitavely unknown compared to Forlan?

    Also you mention Loderio. From what I've seen of him, he is a technically very gifted player, but he hasn't made an impact yet at Ajax, with only a couple of appereances as a substitute. What are your expectations for him? Will he able to cut in a European league?

  • Comment number 9.

    #4 - Uruguay has had some pretty decent defensive midfielders recently such as Pablo Garcia and more recently Sebastian Eguren.

    I wish Tim would have mentioned a bit more on some of the current footballers in the Uruguay team such as Maxi Pereira (very impressed with his performances for Benfica in Europa League), Luis Suarez (who seems to score for fun in Holland), or Juan Albin (on the fringes of the national team but has always impressed when fit for Getafe).

    Also there is the plight of Javier Chevanton. Always seems to be out of favour with the manager at his club but always seems to score when given the chance. His direct free kicks are deadly and I would have thought that there would be a place for him in the national time. I had hoped he would do more in his loan spell with Atalanta in order to put himself into contention. I think it has been a couple years since he was called up.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'd love to see a 2nd round clash between Uruguay and Argentina at the 2010 World Cup. If Nicolas Lodeiro manages to sneak into the Ajax starting XI before the tournament (will be difficult given that they're on a good run now and are still in the title hunt) then he and Suarez could be able to find each other with their eyes closed by the time they get to South Africa.

    Club World Rankings.com

  • Comment number 11.

    Nice blog. Just let me correct one mistake. Nacional should be refered to as a "giant" in the continent, not just Uruguay. They've won the Libertadores three times (you're missing one), and the three times they went on to win the Intercontinental cup. Also, after the last game away at Banfield they became the team with more points in the history of the tournament surpassing River Plate.

  • Comment number 12.

    As a Scotsman, you'll need to forgive my enduring biased regard of Uruguay as a team of butchers, on the basis of Mexico 86. Scotland had already done themselves enough of a disservice against West Germany & Denamrk, but the final game was sickening. Francescoli was a class act though...

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Tim,

    Great blog on a nation that deserves a little bit more respect in the global game.

    On a related issue, I come from Burton, and the National Football Centre obviously gets a fair bit of press here.

    David Sheepshanks, the new chairman of the NFC, was talking about the importance of the scheme, and said that every world cup-winning nation had a similar facility. I assume this is true for the inaugural winners Uruguay, so I wondered if you could tell us how important it has been to the development of their national game, and their recent renaissance?

  • Comment number 14.

    As a huge fan of Italian football since the 90's I can remember a few great Uruguayan flair players lighting up Serie A - Daniel Fonseca, Enzo Francescoli, Reuben Sosa, Alvaro Recoba to name the first few to spring to mind.

    But I've probably also got to mention the (admittedly effective) animal that was Paulo Montero at Juventus! If Uruguayan football does still suffer from an image problem I reckon a lot of it can probably be attributed to this one man alone!

  • Comment number 15.

    I like football!! :)

  • Comment number 16.

    Hi Tim

    Always look forward to your blog on Monday morning. Fascinating and well written as always. Don't know if you've had a chance to see Messi's goals for Barca at the weekend? He's looking completely unplayable at the moment (which looks ominous for my beloved Arsenal!) and although I know you have covered this a lot I am still bewildered that Argentina struggled so much in qualifying with him in the team.

    Do you think Uruguay will make it out of their group at the World Cup? With France and Mexico as well as South Africa on home soil I think it would be some achievement.

  • Comment number 17.

    Tim, you have commented previously that the advent of the little left-footed midfield maestro Nicolas Lodeiro as playmaker has allowed Diego Forlan to join Luis Suarez upfront. That is a potentially devastating trident in attack.

    I thought Tabarez was a little slow to introduce Lodeiro - he could have played in the decisive qualifiers against Argentina and Ecuador rather than having to wait for the play-off with Costa Rica.

    Unfortunately for Uruguay, it is hard to see a Plan B if Lodeiro becomes injured or runs out of steam at high altitude. But I noticed around Christmas time that the Poor Man's Maradona Alvaro Recoba - who never retired from international football - returned to play for Danubio in Uruguay. I presume that he wants one last tilt at the World Cup, and of course he is exactly the same age as Zidane in 2006 and Maradona in 1994. More pertinently, Recoba is a full year younger than Juan Sebastian Veron, who is locked-in as Argentina's playmaker.

    How has Recoba done since his return to Uruguay? Is he offering enough for Tabarez to take him to South Africa as Lodeiro's understudy, to bring on with 20 minutes to go or if vicious, swerving setpieces are required?

  • Comment number 18.

    A correction for Tim:

    Nacional won the Copa Libertadores tree times: 1971, 1980 and 1980. And consecutively won the International Cup (predecessor of the actual FIFA CWC) in exact same numbers and years.

    Penarol won the Copa Libertadores five times: 1960, 1961, 1966, 1982 and 1987 and won the International Cup also trice, in 1961, 1966 and 1982.

  • Comment number 19.

    addendum:

    of course the last 1980 has to be 1988 in the case of Nacional.

  • Comment number 20.

    As usual,an awesome blog Tim.

    However,I want to know whether there is any possibility of JAVIER ZANETTI making it to the WC 2010 with ARGENTINA?Because I think MARADONA doesn't have any good full-back.As ZANETTI is still playing very well at the top level with INTER MILAN I think MARADONA can have a look at him.More over,is there any chance of MARADONA playing GUTIERREZ as a right full-back?Cos I think he's better at defending than he's at attacking.Rather than playing four centre-backs at the back its better to play ZANETTI & GUTIERREZ on the left & right respectively with two centre-backs in the centre.

    Even though this thought doesn't go with the topic of ur blog today,I wanna ur view on it,TIM?

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks Tim again for another interesting article.

    Who do you rate higher of Palermo's Uruguayan strikers; Edinson Cavani or Abel Hernandez? Both very young and very talented, but haven't really played together because of Miccoli's role as captain. If you had to pick just one for South Africa who would it be?

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    People shouldn't be so quick to judge Uruguay by the 1986 team's antics.

    They were in the original Group of Death, with West Germany, Denmark and Scotland (under Fergie!).

    Denmark would probably have won that World Cup at normal altitude - their exit to Spain owed everything to running out of steam at high altitude where total football was just impossible.

    I watched almost all of Uruguay's qualifiers for this 2010 World Cup, and they look to me to have their best team for decades. They have a soft draw - they could get to the Quarter Finals be beating only South Africa and Mexico's worst teams for decades plus Nigeria.

    They should be targeting the Semi-Finals really, because the spine of the team if formidable: Muslera / Lugano Caceres / Eguaren Lodeiro / Forlan Suarez.

  • Comment number 24.

    Good insight to south american football.

    I think Uruguay have a very good chance of making it to the second round by topping the group. They just have to figure a way out to beat the French who by the way are not what they used to be under Zidane. It was more or less like a one man army when he was around.

    Argentina on the other hand have a very good oppurtunity to make it until semis atleast given the talent they are possessing all over the field. Maradona can also take Javier Saviola and Pablo Aimar so that there is an equal mix of experience and youth. However Juan Sebastian Veron would be there for sure in the squad is what i think. If only the issues between Maradona and Riquelme can be resolved and Riqueleme agrees to go to the world cup, then Argentina can come atleat 2nd.

    What do think about the chances of Riqueleme in the Argentina squad for world cup Tim?

  • Comment number 25.

    444111

  • Comment number 26.

    9. At 11:18am on 22 Mar 2010, Jaimito7 wrote:
    #4 - Uruguay has had some pretty decent defensive midfielders recently such as Pablo Garcia and more recently Sebastian Eguren.

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------
    Eguren is a decent player but no more than that - he seems to be playing higer up the field these days anyway so that in turn will have a dmamging effect on his positional sense which wasn't too great at Villareal (Senna did all the defending). I am still bemused to this day how Pablo Garcia played for Real Madrid until I remember that they bought Tommy Gravesen too...........

  • Comment number 27.

    still remember francescolli, elegant striker great to watch
    ill be rooting a bit for uruguay in south africa, theyre like the holland of south america, tho they won the world cup twice:)

  • Comment number 28.

    This is the first time I have ever commented on a blog. I was forced to after seeing my beloved Leyton Orient mentioned in an article about South American football of all things!

    Another great article Tim. It is great to have such intelligent and knowledgeable insights on a continent that holds such importance in world football, but is woefully underreported here. Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 29.

    Apologies to Nacional fans - they have of course won the Libertadores 3 times, and not twice as i wrongly stated.

    Makes me feel a bit like that tribe of indians somewhere in south america whose system of numbers only goes up to two - any more and they get confused

  • Comment number 30.

    21 - of the Palermo pair, I'd go for Cavani over Hernandez at this stage - he's further down the line and physically stronger.

  • Comment number 31.

    14 - I was a huge fan of Paolo Montero - might have overdone the rough stuff at times, but he was also pure class - there was a fair bit of passarella in him, i always thought.

    And older uruguayans will tell you that he was an angel compared to his dad, montero castillo!

  • Comment number 32.

    Julio Montero Castillo: "Adentro de la cancha, mi vieja se pone una camiseta y le pego también." A bit outdated, but the interview is worth it, probably from some antropologycal point of view :) http://www.cronicas.com.uy/HNoticia_10891.html

  • Comment number 33.

    Hi Tim.Love the blog, is a must read for me on a Monday!

    Nice to see Uruguayuan football on something of a high after years of association with negative football. Would love to see them do well at the World Cup, you can't underestimate the achievements of the World Cup winning sides of 1930 and 1950 when you compare the population to that of Argentina and Brazil bordering them.

    The only recent game I've seen was the defeat at home to Argentina. To be honest I was disappointed by Uruguay's display. In my opinion, they tried to pass the ball through Argentina and didn't deviate from the plan when it was clear it wasn't working. Do they have a physical presence they can turn to when the passing game isn't on?

  • Comment number 34.

    33 - big Abreu off the bench is a fearsome physical prospect, very good in the air.

    But the big thing that has changed the team since that argentina gae is the introduction of left footed playmaker Lodeiro - he makes their game so much ore subtle, and he seems to have clicked instantly with Forlan in that kind of relationship you often find between top players.

    A worry - he's just joined Ajax, and is only getting a few minutes here and there off the bench. here's hoping it doesn't take the edge off his game.

  • Comment number 35.

    Hi Tim,

    Excellent piece as always.

    I thought La Celeste were lucky to survive the play-off against Costa Rica - Walter Centeno, even thought he scored in the second-leg, had the chance to put them to the sword.

    Sebastian ''El Loco'' Abreu's getting on, but he has been playing well of recent for Botafogo and may add a bit of strength at the w/c.

    However, I'm looking forward to the Peñarol v Nacional clásico on 17 April. Hopefully we'll get better than the recent spate of draws affecting the continent.

    Best regards,
    TDT
    http://www.thedirtytackle.blogspot.com
    http://www.manonplatform13.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 36.

    A worry - he's just joined Ajax, and is only getting a few minutes here and there off the bench. here's hoping it doesn't take the edge off his game.

    this season will be very hard for him to get in, ajax is trying to catch up twente so will be no experimentation for now
    but in the one game he played for 5 mins i saw him have 4/5 touches of the ball and i was convinced, huge potential
    if emmanuelson goes i wouldnt mind him on leftmid position next year

  • Comment number 37.

    # 14 - I absolutely loved watching Montero. The man was certainly not of the delicate school of centre halves but for me he was the epitome of the defensive arts, i.e. winning the ball and doing whatever else you can just about get away with.

    More generally, the lack of strength in depth and the few players who have truly shone at the highest level will put asunder any chance of a magical 80th anniversary of 1930. That said, the work they're putting in will surely pay off in future tournaments, the next Copa America especially.

  • Comment number 38.

    Tim what are your views on "el tanque" Santiago Silva? Having been in Buenos Aires for the past 6 months i have seen a great deal of him. He impressed me last season with his workrate and goalscoring for Banfield and has continued that rich form this season at Velez. I was at the Velez-Boca 4-4 game and he was excellent that night, albeit against a rather shaky Boca defence - pace, power and good close control.
    At 30 he may not fit into Tabarez´s philosophy but i think he is certainly worth a squad place for the World Cup. It says a lot for the strength of the Uruguayan selection if he is not even in the running for a spot in South Africa.

  • Comment number 39.

    Uruguay is a two team country, Nacional and Peñarol. Their rivalry is fierce and sometimes destructive.
    Nacional honors the country, its field (Gran Parque Central), the colors of its uniform and and its name tell of the pride of being Uruguayan.
    As sporting stats go, Nacional counts 42 local tournaments (second to none in the country), 3 Copa Libertadores and 3 club World Cups.
    Nacional boasts of having the most numerous and faithful fan base in the country, the most members of any other club in the country (30.000 strong and counting). Another achievement is to lead the historical table of the Copa Libertadores both by matches played and by points. Please bear in mind that Copa Libertadores is played by powerful Brazilian and Argentinian sides every year.
    Uruguay´s national team at present is almost 100% former Nacional players except Forlan.
    Present top players played for Nacional before joining European teams, Lodeiro, Suarez, Muslera, Lugano, Eguren,Godin are the most relevant along with Abreu, huge Nacional icon for the fans and huge Nacional fan himself.
    In short, Nacional rules in Uruguay, we are very proud of our team.
    Long live Nacional and our national team!

  • Comment number 40.

    Another interesting, insightful piece Tim.

    I have a special attachment to Racing as a result of a brief spell managing them on Football Manager. They were in the 2nd Division only 2 years ago, so have done tremendously well to reach the Libertadores, and hold their own.

    Paolo Montero was an outstanding defender, sadly remembered more for his red cards than his defensive skills.

  • Comment number 41.

    Tim , super article once again , i recently saw a report that Arsenal were thinking off making an 8 million pound bid for Sergi Romero , this seemed strange to me as on the few occasions i have seen him he hasn't looked like being anywhere good enough for a top club in Europe. I know he is the Argentine number 1 , so do you think he is capable of raising his performances , if he was to move to a top european club.

  • Comment number 42.

    Hi Tim, great blog. Being an Atlético Madrid fan, I was wondering if you knew anything about the two young Uruguayan players that we signed in the summer? Leandro Cabrera (from Defensor Sporting) and Sebastian Gallegos (from Danubio). Both are 18 and I believe rated as two of the best prospects in the country. Neither have features for the Atleti first team yet although Cabrera has been on the bench a few times, and I also believe he captained the Uruguay Under 20 team in the recent World Cup.

    If you do know anything, thanks!

  • Comment number 43.

    I love reading your post every week Tim. Just one clarification for some confused fans:

    Although Peñarol has not won the local championship in the last couple of years, it is Uruguay's oldest (according to FIFA: http://www.fifa.com/classicfootball/clubs/club=1882532/index.html%29, most famous and winningest team, as well as South America's winningest team of the 20th century according to the IFHHS (http://www.iffhs.de/?32b0cfd380ff73117fe2c0bf23c17e23a09e33b17f7370eff3702bb1c2bbb6e20e52c00f23808f15%29. Despite the complaints of its traditional rivals, 47 is more than 42, hence Peñarol has also won the most local championships.

    Aside from winning the first edition of the Libertadores Cup, Peñarol also has the most Libertadores in Uruguay (5) and 3 Intercontinental Cups (3) (unlike Nacional, they were all won against European champions, not against a runner-up like Panathinaikos in 1971).

    Peñarol also has the largest and most faithful fan base (just look at the yearly ticket sales and you can easily confirm that). A large reason for this is that it is the people's team. Its history started with a British railway company, but is steeped in the popular lore of the country. It was one of the first teams in South America to allow black players in its roster(unlike Nacional, which is an offshoot of an elite that, at the time, would not put up with such an affront), and its fighting spirit is the staff of legends, with some of its come backs having made it into football's history books (See the come back against River Plate in 1966: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVjPyCPK1NI&feature=related or against America de Cali in 1987: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPrxGZI9HPI&feature=related).

    Regarding the national team, Nacional does have the bulk of the players, but it is also highly unlikely that Uruguay would have made it to the World Cup without Peñarol's Diego Forlan (the country's best-known player), Diego Perez, Christian Rodriguez or even Juan Castillo.

    Despite its recent drought, the team is currently in a 10-game winning streak and at top of the Clausura table (and one point out of the overall lead). Which is just fine, because when Peñarol does well most Uruguayans are happy.

    In short, Nacional fans are very proud of its stadium, acceptable fan base and achievements. But when it comes to ruling Uruguay, there is only one South American champion of the century, one team that won the most local championships (remember, 47 is (always) more than 42), one oldest team (just ask Fifa!), one most popular team and one legendary king of the come-from-behind win: PEñAROL.

    By the way, thanks for the blogs Tim. I check them every week and they never disappoint.

    Peñarol Peñarol

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi Mister Tim, great blog!

    Thanks for showing the Uruguayan football to the world.

    I am a Uruguayan citizen from Rivera, a Notts County fan, and I usually read your articles about South American football.

    I disagree with some comments regarding the Uruguayans players as a "team of butchers", especially when coming from a Scotsman ... but I understand them.

    I agree with our football we're in the right direction, and I think the Celeste Olímpica has a good chance of, at least, overcoming the group stage. And of course, to show a better image than the left in the far 80s

    I wish you to continue on with your excellent journalism

  • Comment number 45.

    Good blog Tim, keep up the good work

  • Comment number 46.

    Tim, will Hernanes ever make the step up to both Europe and the national team? I see he's only got one cap for Brazil yet he's highly rated. I would have thought he should be thinking about the move to Europe soon too.

    Which club(s) would go for him?

  • Comment number 47.

    Hi Tim great blog .
    Nacional won the Libertadores three times: 1971, 1980 and 1988, each time wining the Intercontinental cup, and not twice as you wrote. You demonstrate great knowledge and a sharp eye to spot new talents

  • Comment number 48.

    #43, your comments are not supported by facts, Nacional won the local championship 42 times to Peñarol's 40. When you claim Penarol won 47 times you must be referring to 7 championships won by the CURCC, a british railway team . I ask you, can you produce those 7 cups? where are they? By any chance are they at your team's HQ?
    Of course not, they are at Montevideo's British Hospital, being said Hospital the heir of all of CURCC's belongings........
    You state of Penarol being the team of the people.... sort of Boca Jrs. I imagine, let me ask you, in the past year how many times did you sold out a match? Let me answer it for you: none.
    As for Nacional , in the past year we sold out a 55.000 approx stadium 5 times, let me refresh your memory: in Copa Libertadores (another 7 year drought for you) against Palmeiras and Estudiantes(they beat us at that game), in the local championship three times, against Danubio (final Apertura 08/09), against Fenix (coronation game for Aperura 09/10) and against Defensor (Campeonato Uruguayo 2009/2010).
    That's a loyal fan base!
    As to the national team it is worth mentioning that Nacional's allegiance to it is unsurpassed by any other team, the best example being Uruguay's first international victory dated September 13, 1903 against Argentina in Buenos Aires. It is an understatement to say that the national team that day was the Nacional team.
    As to your quote "Penarol's Diego Forlan", let me ask you, when did Diego play for Penarol? You know the answer better than me: never!

    And to finish, you state your team being on a 10 match winning streak and one point away from the overall lead, it is really a two point lead gap, but you know who the current leader is: Nacional.

  • Comment number 49.

    my question is regarding denilson of arsenal- he comes across as such a nice, well-behaved young man. is this truly the case? and is he percieved like this at home, too?

  • Comment number 50.

    My question is about Argentina..

    Is there any chance of Maradona calling up Dario Conca?
    And who do you think Lavezzi could replace?

  • Comment number 51.

    46 - i think hernanes has probably been harmed by not going already - he hasn't developed as i'd hoped. lots of technique, but weak on options - when to play short, when to go long. more than technique, football is ideas - and this is where i think he's lacking. i've been saying it for a while now - a real shame he didn't go to barcelona a couple of years back - i can imagine guardiola getting good things out of him

  • Comment number 52.

    47 - mangabolso? is this possible?
    sorry about the mistake about nacional's libertadores wins - the result of trying to work too fast.

    49 - denilson moved so early, before he really had much of a profile here.

    50 - conca, no chance whatsoever. lavezzi has usually been in the squad, and if he goes will be an option off the bench, especially for the counter-attack.

  • Comment number 53.

    With #43 and #48 kicking lumps out of each other about the distant past of the Uruguayan domestic game, I'd like to disagree that the national team have improved much and certainly can't be compared to the Uruguayan teams who graced the fist 40 years of World cup history. For that period the country achieved success which was way beyond that which should have been possible for a nation with so small a population.
    After that, they slid down to the standard which would be expected, occasionally qualifying for the finals, but doing little when they got there.
    Qualifying this time, exactly as 4 years earlier, by a play-off, is the best they can hope for nowadays and even to get that place, they rely on the failure of others like Columbia, Ecuador and Peru.
    I'm sure they will be by far the least successful of the 5 South American countries in South Africa.

  • Comment number 54.

    #53 Can you see them getting out of the group in SA?

  • Comment number 55.

    48# strife between nacional and penarol fans on a british website ! I like it !

    didn't realise penarol had gone so long without qualifying for the libertadores !

  • Comment number 56.

    Hi Tim, i was reading your article and noticed you said penarol and nacional have won the copa Libertadores.....

    Nacional have won 3 times and Penarol 5.....

    Sorry for the correction...

    Andres

  • Comment number 57.

    Not TWICE...

  • Comment number 58.

    56/7 - if you'd read the comments above you'd have seen that i've already apologised for that mistake.

    not once

    TWICE!

  • Comment number 59.

    Hi Tim, love reading your article, always an interesting read.

    Just to let you Nacional have actually won 3 times!!!

    haha, just messing. I know you have already corrected yourself

  • Comment number 60.

    It's interesting that Uruguay's prospects are being talked up. Given that they finished fifth in South American qualifying, does this suggest that this is a golden era for South America? Or did Uruguay just underperform, compared to Chile and Paraguay?

  • Comment number 61.

    In total agreement with comment no. 55 - how wonderful to see two Uruguayans arguing about their domestic teams on a British board! And there are contributions from Brazilians, Italians, the Dutch ... only the BBC has the international reach and stature to create such genuinely attractive debate, surely? For all its faults the BBC is a wonderful institution, totally unique and unmatched the world over. Long may it live on!

  • Comment number 62.

    Hi Tim,

    Sandro's transfer from Internacional to Tottenham after the Libertadores is all but complete. From the bits and pieces I have seen of him and from what I have heard from you on the World Football Phone-In, he appears to have strength and ability on the ball. But do you think he is capable of playing a full season in the rough and tumble of the Premiership, particularly bearing in mind he's only 21 and arriving straight from Brazil? Also, what kind of partner is he most suited to playing with- a Palacios type or a smaller technician like Modric?

    Cheers,

    Klins

  • Comment number 63.

    Tim,
    What do you know about Atletico Madrid's new young argentinian striker Salvio ? I know they got him from Lanus. How do you rate him ? Do you think he'll do well in Spain ?

  • Comment number 64.

    Penerol were voted South America's team of the century and its name still revered all over South America. Such a shame Uruguayan football has hit such lows in recent years but this as we all know is due to the crippling economic climate.

    I was lucky enough to see a Penerol Nacional derby in the Centario and the atmosphere was electric Penerol finally winning 4-1!

    Glad to see Nacional in the semis although the Penerol supporters might have a different view!

  • Comment number 65.

    I sadly lost 3 pages of comments, but that might be for the better.

    As to butchering your opponents, I do remember the apollinean visage of Nobby Stiles and his elegant playing style. Only sad thing, it was his opponents" chin he was kicking ! Nobody seems to register that.
    And much of Brasil's jogo bonito tends to obscure the fact that Tulio or Juan (or Dunga in his time), are not people you would like to dribble in a dark alley ! surely, Brasil had Joao Havelange to clean up at FIFA later on, but I have seen more broken legs in Brasilian TV than in all of Uru history.
    And remember Portugals massacre of Brasil? Great Eusebio, but greater still were the kicks and shots taken at Pele in their game.

    Uruguay has the disadvantage of being only 3.4 million. A London neighborhood ! One favela in Rio ! Even if we paid twice as much royalties to FIFA as we do today, we would not match the increases derived from improving the revenues from TV in Egypt (80 million). FIFA is not based in Switzerland by chance !

  • Comment number 66.

    It is amazing to see how a tiny country like Uruguay can produce so many superb players. The top 5 since 1978 would be R. Sosa, France'scoli, Forla'n, Recoba, Fonseca. You can add Montero, R. Paz, Alzamendi, S. Marti'nez and Carrasco to complete the top 10. This year they have a very good team that can make it far in SA. Forla'n is the man, next to Sua'rez, Lugano, Lodeiro, Cavani, Chevanto'n, even Zalayeta. Class and strength. That's been Uruguay's secret combo all along. Now, after years of mediocrity, they have also recovered some of the confidence Obdulio Varela exuded all those years ago. I'll be rooting for these guys.

  • Comment number 67.

    Uruguay can be this year's Hrvatska. Both nations display many similarities. They're tiny but with a proud tradition (the latter under the Yugoslavian flag). Both seem to have an endless supply of great players who succeed in the most demanding leagues in the world. Just as the Croatian side of 98, Uruguay can boast a good mix of supremely talented strikers, intelligent and skillful midfielders, and tough yet smart defenders. Plus, not very high expectations.

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.

    And I still wonder what might’ve happened had Bokšić played next to Šuker and Boban.

  • Comment number 70.

    Great blog again, on a most unusual of footballing nations: twice world champions (1930, 1950) and sporadically producing great talent. I always thought that this talent comes in small doses, mainly because of Uruguay's tiny size. But what made Uruguayan football respectable was also the main reason for their descent into WWF-like performers: the famous (or infamous) and stuff-of-legends 'sangre charrua'. This knife-in-your-teeth approach to playing the game became a synonym for manlihood and games were true blood battles, often obscuring true talent and delaying the development of a more modern game.

    Somehow this seemed to work in the South American context, intimidating the hell out of visiting Argentinian or Brazilian teams, but once they had to play offshore, reality sank in.

    I am glad to see that that culture has all but disappeared and Uruguay are fun to watch once again. However, I do think that except for their forwards, their overall team is very mediocre. One has to look at their last 3 qualifying matches to realize that they are not a powerhouse, despite Suarez and Forlan. Against Argentina and playing at home they looked very shaky/beatable and almost resigned to lose; they did make it through the repechage but barely, against Costa Rica.

    They can beat South Africa, tie France and tie Mexico, a dead even group, very tough to call... I wish the cousins well

  • Comment number 71.

    It's interesting when #48 says my comments are not supported by facts. It seems he is not able to click on the links I posted. May be his computer has a virus or something. Let's try this again.

    Peñarol is Uruguay's oldest soccer team because Fifa says so (1891, whether you like it or not). It did change its name in 1913. It was also congratulated in its 40th birthday by the then president of Nacional in 1931 with a letter which, by the way, is still on display at Peñarol's headquarters. So, if a Nacional president and Fifa say that Peñarol is a 119-year-old entity, who am I to go against that. Hence, if Peñarol and CURCC are the same thing, Peñarol has 47 local championships. If you as an individual want to deny that, who am I to burst in on your fantasy world.

    Regarding ticket sales, yes, if you choose to pick up random numbers, then Nacional sell out their games all the time. But, if you choose to look at seasons, Peñarol has sold more tickets over the last three years than Nacional (in fact, Peñarol has sold almost as many tickets on the second round of this year's championship than ALL the other teams combined). And you do make a great point, all the games you sell out are in South American competition or when you are about to win a cup. We get 50,000 people against lesser Uruguayan teams in a time period when, as you pointed out accurately, we haven't won anything. Now that's a fan base! (And not the ones that come to celebrate a championship or see a Libertadores game).

    When Man U. bought Forlan, Peñarol got money for developing him. Although he did leave at 17, he is still a fan. (In case you doubt it, just look it up online. Plenty of sources on it).

    Lastly, yes, we are actually 2 points behind Nacional. But we'll get you. The derby is ours historically as well. For anyone that wants to see the game on TV, you'll be able to tell who Peñarol's fans pretty easily: They're the ones that are covering three quarters of the stadium with yellow and black.

    Peñarol Peñarol





  • Comment number 72.

    Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the response. The 1982 World Cup was unfortunately just a year or so early for me to appreciate it on a real level. It seems like you rate him though, which makes for encouraging reading.

    With the right-footed Nani on the left-wing currently, something may have to give I think and this contributed to my thinking. His brother has been more than capable in all but the really big games though, where his relative defensive naivity showed itself more than you'd like, so one imagines Fabio has the same touch of class.

    No potential as a box-to-box midfielder though ?

  • Comment number 73.

    Tim:
    Manga is the nickname from Haílton Corrêa de Arruda who was a great brazilian goalkeeper that played for Nacional and helped to win the Libertadores (1971).

    Bolso is the way Nacional fans are called since 1900.

    That's why it's possible .

  • Comment number 74.

    73 - more evidence of me trying to work too quickly - confused 'manga' with 'manya' - and 'manyabolso' is very unlikely.

    (it's the nicknames of both penarol and nacional - and as people can see from comments left on this blog, they don't like each other very much!)

  • Comment number 75.

    I am not fully conversant with Penarol's rich history in Uruguyan football but a player I do remember seeing a fair bit of them mid nineties as a bleary eyed teenager watching South American football in the early hours and Pablo Bengoechea was a fantastic midfielder if I recall, I would have loved to see him in Europe. I just wondered what role if any he has in football right now Tim?

    Is he part of any teams coaching set up or is he doing punditry for example?

  • Comment number 76.

    #75: Bengoechea got a mate overdose, had to abandon futbol and is now an assistant coach to Markarian, which some claim is one of the best Uruguayan coaches around.

  • Comment number 77.

    75: Bengoechea got a mate overdose, had to abandon futbol and is now an assistant coach to Markarian, which some claim is one of the best Uruguayan coaches around.


    ----

    wow, ok well thats interesting to know!

  • Comment number 78.

    #75, #76 - The caffeine overdose (claimed to be caused by excessive consumption of yerba máte) took place during the Copa América of 1989. Bengoechea retired from football in 2003.

    From 1989 to 2003 he went on to win 7 championships with Peñarol. He was the most influential player in Peñarol's 5 straight championships between 1993-1997 (Peñarol was won 5 straight on two occasions, Nacional has achieved this only once). He was also champion with Peñarol in 1999 and 2003.

    In 1995 he won the Copa América with Uruguay where he scored Uruguay's goal in the final against Brazil.

    Bengoechea now works as an assistant coach to Sergio Markarián (signed two weeks ago with Danubio) along with Carlos Aguirregaray (his son Matías currently plays for Peñarol).

    The three have previously worked together in Mexico and in Chile.

    Bengoechea also has a few business ventures, the most well known is the bar he owns (Bar "El 10") in the pocitos area of Montevideo.

  • Comment number 79.

    EXIJO QUE SE MENCIONE Y SE RECONOZCA QUE NACIONAL ES 3 VECES CAMPEÓN DE AMÉRICA Y DEL MUNDO EN 1971, 1980 Y 1988. Ver sitio oficial y siguientes link: http://www.nacional.com.uy/mvdcms/categoria_58_1_1.html
    http://www.nacional.com.uy/mvdcms/categoria_130_1_1.html
    Gracias,
    Pablo Barcelo

  • Comment number 80.

    #79, Pablo, si lees los comentarios te darás cuenta que hasta el autor del blog pide disculpas y recononce que ustedes fueron 3 veces campeón de América.

    Yo 5, ¿y vos?

  • Comment number 81.

    Yo 5, ¿y vos?
    ...................
    an example of rioplatense spanish, using the formal vos, rather than the informal tu !
    class !!

  • Comment number 82.

    Who is Uruguay's legendary football and how does Recoba rank in all of this? He was a top player - if he'd have been in the current Inter team he might have more silverware in his cabinet!

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com

  • Comment number 83.

    recoba.. el conejo, was his nickname as I remember ( on account of his prominent front teeth ! )

  • Comment number 84.

    Is "vos" still considered formal in Urugay then? Cos in most other countries that use it, it's informal.

  • Comment number 85.

    Hi Tim your the oracle on South America and i enjoy your blogs and your radio shows.

    Regarding Uruguay I believe that they have a outside chance of winning the World cup if they can make there defence rock solid as they will always score goals with a strike force of Suarez,Forlan,Cavani and Abreu and what a plan B they have I have watched Abreu play in the qualifiers and he is lethal in the air. I also like the look of lodeiro who can thread the clever ball to Forlan and Suarez. I also like Cristian Rodriguez on the wing he is a worker with skill as well.

    What do you think of Fernando muslera? he seems to be improving this year and the defenders in front of him are they good enough? I really only know of Lugano who is solid not sure about Godin and Fucile do they have the defence to challenge for the cup?

  • Comment number 86.

    Is "vos" still considered formal in Urugay then? Cos in most other countries that use it, it's informal
    ....................................
    Its formal in spain, but clearly informal in the river plate countries

  • Comment number 87.

    Not entirely sure how it is in Uruguay, but over in Argentina vos is the equivalent of tu, which isnt used at all. In uruguay, I imagine its almost the same.

  • Comment number 88.

    Hi Tim:

    great post!!
    Uruguay is changing the bad image, let me tell you that uruguaian player are strong but leal, they go for the ball with all the pasion and strength but always w/o hurt othe players, that is the way we were born, they teached us, for everything in life you have to give 100%, is probably just to try to succeed beside the big countries like Argentina and Brazil. Of course some players like Cristiano Ronaldo don't like that because cannot show all the nice skills.
    Argentina football is bad, they play well, but the players will spit on you if they can, is always short cut in every single play and nobody talks about that.
    Brasilian are similar too but they always have to talk bad about Uruguay, I think it is just to cover they own.
    I wish one day you can visit Uruguay and you will see how people are.

    Thanks a lot

    Alvaro


  • Comment number 89.

    The problem with Uruguay is that despite having some fantastic players throughout the years (Francescoli, Sosa, Recoba, etc) they have always been more concerned with destroying than with creating.

    They rely heavily on the so-called "Sangre Charrua" and on the fact they beat Brazil in the Maracana back in 1950. They have failed to move on with the times and that's why they usually struggle to qualify for the WC and once there, they are absolute rubbish.

    Back in 2002, they were 0-3 down to Senegal before they realised they should start playing football and they did in a great way rallying to 3-3. That's probably their best contribution to the cause of football in the WC in the last 35 years, otherwise, they've been a waste of space in the WC, which is a real shame considering some of the players they've had.

    Uruguay needs a major overhaul of their approach to football if they want to make the most of their players and regain some prestige that has been long lost.

  • Comment number 90.

    Hi Tim
    please i have been worried with Diego Maradona selection policies especilly when it's concern Javier Zenetti what do you think of these icon,do you think he can make to South Africa with Agentina, if no please give please comment.His form have being terrific with Inter Milan...tks and bgrds ..

  • Comment number 91.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 92.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 93.

    Tim has given us a fine picture of Uruguayan football history and re-emergence. With a population of just 3.4 millions, Uruguay is able to send a team to the final rounds of the World Cup. Great footballing country with a long tradition in Jogo Bonito. Let's wish the team and their fans a fine tournament in South Africa.

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 95.

    I think they will be the winner on the next tournament. Good information.

    Thank you and My best regards!
    Bola

  • Comment number 96.

    This year it will be a good year for Uruguay. I think that this country will figth France and South Africa in order to access to quarter finale of the world cup.

  • Comment number 97.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    I think Uruguay will be difficult to compete with French and south Africa, and two last names i guess will qualify.

    Bill More
    Digital Tech Life

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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