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Penarol carving out a new history

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Tim Vickery | 14:39 UK time, Monday, 13 June 2011

Measuring 309m by 46m, the flag unfurled on 12 April by fans of Uruguayan club Penarol is apparently the biggest in the world.

Draped across much of Montevideo's Centenario stadium, it hung in celebration of the fact that the club had made it through to the knockout stages of the Copa Libertadores for the first time since 2002.

Two months later, there is much more to celebrate. Penarol have gone all the way to the final, for the first since they won the last of their five titles in 1987.

This Wednesday they are at home in the first leg against Santos of Brazil, who are chasing their first title since 1963. It is a replay of the 1962 clash between these first two winners of the Libertadores. This is a match dripping in history, and it could hardly have a more appropriate setting than the Centenario, the legendary old ground built for the 1930 World Cup.

In recent years a different flag has often been on show in the stands of the stadium, one which suggests that a rich footballing history can be as much a burden as an asset.

When the Uruguay national team play at home a frequent sight has been a big sky blue banner with '1950' on it - a reference to the last time the Uruguayans won the World Cup, when they came from behind to beat Brazil in Rio.

National team coach Oscar Washington Tabarez refers to the aftermath of this triumph as 'the complex of 1950' - something profoundly negative for Uruguayan football. The 1950 side were considered the true champions. For decades afterwards Uruguayan sides were judged against the standards set by that team, were weighed and found wanting. "The crowd would give the players ten minutes," says Tabarez, "and then a horrible silence would descend" as the fans reached their melancholy conclusion on the merits of the men they were watching.

Uruguay's exploits a year ago, when they reached the semi finals in South Africa, would seem to have buried the complex. A new generation has its own idols to applaud - Diego Forlan of Atletico Madrid, Luis Suarez of Liverpool, Edinson Cavani of Napoli.

Of course, they all play abroad. With a population little bigger than 3m, these days Uruguay is clearly unable to hold on to its best players.

Diego Aguirre (left) has guided Penarol to the final of the Copa Libertadores.

Aguirre (left) has used young and hungry players to great effect at Penarol. Photo: Getty Images

Before taking charge of the national team for a second spell in 2006, Tabarez spent time reflecting on the effects on Uruguayan football of the globalisation of the game. With the stars spending their peak years abroad, he saw that it was inevitable that Uruguayan club football would be full of teenagers and veterans. But the culture of the game in the country was still strong. Players could still be produced, and Uruguay could use its youth sides to groom them in such a way that they would be prepared for the demands of top level modern football.

He went in search of team players, capable of passing and pressing the ball as part of a collective. He was also looking for youngsters who could cope with the pace of the contemporary game - not just those with quick movement, but also those technically gifted enough to give them speed of execution, or sufficiently intelligent and cool-headed to take rapid decisions.

These qualities would stand them in good stead in European club football, but they have grown up with a strong emotional link with their national team and a firm grounding in their country's footballing identity.

The outcome has been a succession of good displays from Uruguay at under-20 and under-17 levels, and a conveyor belt of players feeding through to the senior side. Cavani and Suarez are graduates of Uruguay's under-20 team of 2007. Striker Abel Hernandez and midfielders Nicolas Lodeiro and Gaston Ramirez came up via the class of 2009. And defender Diego Polenta, captain of this year's under-20s, looks like another with a long career ahead of him in the senior ranks.

Uruguay's return to football's top table, then, is the result of a well thought-out process. But what does this have to do with Penarol? After all, as we have seen, the leap in quality given by the national team does not have much to do with the domestic game - and yet Penarol have become the first Uruguayan club to reach the final of the Libertadores in more than two decades.

In part this might be put down to the feel good factor, a general euphoria in Uruguayan football arising from last year's World Cup. But there is also an overlap.

Current club coach Diego Aguirre is not just the striker whose goal in the final minute of extra time gave Penarol their last Libertadores title back in 1987. He has also been involved in the process with Tabarez, taking charge of the under-20s in 2009.

Surely aided by this experience, Aguirre has made sure that his Penarol side avoided a trap the club have fallen into so often over recent years. The tendency to bring back old favourites well into their thirties has frequently left the side too slow to cope with the pace of international competitions.

Not this year. Thirty-five-year-old former star Tony Pacheco, a minor hit in Spanish football, is left on the bench, his place as support striker taken by the nippy, interesting Argentine Alejandro Martinuccio.

If Penarol are not the most talented team in the competition, then they follow a clear idea based on breaking at pace. The back four stay close together, they can play up to effective target man Juan Manuel Olivera, with Martinuccio buzzing behind him. The midfield work as a block, Nicolas Freitas closing down and tackling alongside the talented all rounder Luis Aguiar, Matias Corujo full of lung power on the right, while the long-striding Matias Mier looks like a real discovery on the left.

And there is something else. Penarol have lost five of their 12 matches in the competition. They have conceded more goals than they have scored. But in round after round they have delivered when it really counts. There can be little doubt that Santos are clear favourites to win this year's Libertadores - but they should be aware that Penarol are playing like a team inspired, rather than intimidated, by their club's great history.

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) Simple question: Why isn't Marcelo called up to play for Brazil? I, like many Real Madrid fans, have been impressed with his improvement over the years. And he blossomed under Jose Mourinho. Why isn't he on the Copa America roster? What more does he have to do?
Jesse Acevedo

A) Beats me - it's now almost five years since he scored a cracker on debut against Wales, and he's had very few opportunities since. When Dunga was coach the argument was that Marcelo was playing on the left of midfield rather than at left back - and then he went with Michel Bastos, who'd been playing on the right wing at Lyon!

Marcelo was supposed to play against Scotland at the end of March but picked up an injury in training and hasn't been selected since - I've no idea what he has done to irritate consecutive Brazil coaches. Maybe he doesn't sit up straight for the national anthem.

A) I was wondering what you thought of Ronaldo's selection for Brazil in the recent friendly with Romania? A nice sentimental touch? Or, a strange decision weeks before a major tournament?
Scott Harrison

B) I'm more inclined to the second point of view. I'm not a fan of these farewell games - which is seen by many here as an excess of Anglo-Saxon coldness. He only played for 15 minutes, but, especially in the eyes of the crowd, it did overshadow the efforts of his team-mates preparing for the Copa America.

Paraguay got in the act as well - their midfielder Roberto Acuna was stuck on 98 caps, so they brought him back to play a few minutes in their two recent friendlies so he could reach the 100 mark.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Bring back 606!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    I definitely think that a great deal of the credit of Peñarol's recent campaign belongs to the immortal Diego Aguirre.

    We have to take into consideration that Diego Aguirre came back to the club during the worst crisis in the history of the CARBONEROS: The club hadn't won a single tournatment since the year 2003, and had failed to qualify for the continental tournament since that date. In the year 2009 Peñarol had three different coaches, and none of them was successful.

    He "took office" after a reasonably effective campaign as a coach of the national U-20s. He claimed in "estadio uno" on national uruguayan TV that he had been advised not to take up the job in Peñarol: there was little chance of rescing the team, they had failed to win Campeonato Apertura, and their chance of qualifying for Libertadores was remote, which shows that his love for these colours are something huge and inspiring.

    History proved he was right: Peñarol not only won Campeonato Clausura undefeated, it also won The National Tournament in the finals against Nacional, and qualified for Libertadores.

    He is a living legend of the club, because he represents what it takes to win "a lo Peñarol": making it when no one gives a penny for you, when everything indicates that you are definitely not the favourite one, overcoming any kind of adversity, suffering 'till the very last secind of the game... just as the goal he scored in the finals of '87.

    Long live Diego Aguirre!!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    I thought it was a nice touch for Brazil to give Ronaldo a farewell appearance. Friendlies offer an opportunity to do that (even if they are preparation for a major tournament they are non- competitive) and Ronaldo is after all one of Brazil's all time great players and legends- not only that one of the all time greats of world football! People forget all that with snide remarks about his weight or constantly going on about how we never saw the best of him after all his injuries. We saw enough to realise he was the greatest striker of the modern era. If you can't give a player of that magnitude a farewell appearance then I think that's a bit harsh to be honest.

  • Comment number 4.


    I was wondering how long the players will be in a training camp before the Copa. The Brazilians have been together for 15 or so days now for these two friendlies, are they all going to stay in training for next 20 days before the Copa or are they going to get some time off ? What are the Argentinians and other teams doing?

    I think the scheduling of the tournament isn't the best, it asks the players to stay in action for 2 and half months continuously after the end of the European season. I guess it's probably because of the Libertadores, but most of the players, and certainly the best ones, will be coming from Europe, and for them it would be best to hold the tournament 3 weeks after the end of the European club season.

  • Comment number 5.

    Lovely piece and I for am Team Penarol! Question for you Mr. Vickery, who is the most promising goalkeeper in Argentina/Spain and also do Columbia have a chance at the Copa America (heard you tip Uruguay as your dark horse).

    Also anyone notice how fat Ronaldo has gotten? Neil Shipperly-esque.

  • Comment number 6.

    I meant Argentina/Brazil not Argentina/Spain!

  • Comment number 7.

    At the risk of sounding like a miserable so-and-so (no change there then!) I think that caps are devalued if they are not earned. Representing one's country should be an honour that is given to those who are good enough to merit a place in the team. It is sweet to give Ronaldo a run-out but it doesn't feel right as it lessens the achievement of those selected for the game because they deserve it.

    I do realise that there are a lot of friendlies in the calendar that seem meaningless but I just don't think it is right.

  • Comment number 8.

    Great blog - someone like Phil McNulty could learn from you. I'll be cheering for Penarol all the was from (formerly) sunny Montevideo!!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Never mind 15 minutes in homage to one of the world's great players, if you want genuine evidence of demeaning international football, Mauro Boselli played 90 minutes for Argentina!

    BTW, congratulations to Velez for winning the worst Argentine league in history.

  • Comment number 10.

    Wouldn't it be nice to see this Uruguayan turnaround in fortunes followed up by Penarol winning the Libertadores and then another strong showing by Uruguay in the Copa America? Though you might suspect they might actually create themselves another 1950 moment by winning in El Monumental in the final against Brazil or Argentina.

    As I have previously posted, I'm cheering on Colombia, but I would be happy to see a good showing from Uruguay and Chile, or an end to the failure of Argentina's senior team.

    The next couple of days might hold an omen to whether Argentina can win it. The last time a canadian team won the Stanley Cup of Ice Hockey was also in 1993, the year of Argentina's last triumph, and the Vancouver Canucks are leading 3-2 in a best of 7 match final. Can they hold their nerve tonight in Boston?

  • Comment number 11.

    This is a tricky one. I am fond of Wolves so Penarol's kit is dripping with nostalgia. I also love Stafford Rangers, though, and they look like Santos (even if they don't play like 'em). I wish I had access to watch these teams. Is the Copa America on Sky? I have never taken sky as I think the camera has stolen the soul of football(& football on the radio is marvellous).

    Tim - on another note - a question:
    Could we help raise the profile of S American football and emerging football nations by synchronising the football calendar to enable Copa America, Euros and World Cups to let clubs and players maximise coaching and periodisation? If we could get players to enjoy and not dread tournament football at the end of long domestic campaigns that would be better wouldn't it? What do you think to that?

  • Comment number 12.

    But who can't wait until 2014 to see if all the South American teams can lock out the semi-finals and provide a "new world" final. The first since 1950 of course.

  • Comment number 13.

    great piece, Tim. What a great old-fashioned final. The last time Peñarol won the Libertadores was also the last of a losing streak of three finals for America de Cali, in which Gareca (now coach of Velez Sarsfield) was a one of the stars of the team. What a coincidence that the same person who took away his Libertadores dream in the last minute in '87, is now the coach of the team who took it away again this year.

    I think the majority of the people who read this fantastic blog will agree with me, that during Copa America, you should post articles at least twice a week.

  • Comment number 14.

    "Uruguay's return to football's top table, then, is the result of a well thought-out process. "

    Turkey and South Korea got to the WC semi-final in 2002. Turkey got to the semi-finals of Euro 2008. I don't view either as having got to footballs top table. I'm all for small countries doing well, but one tournament is not consistent success.

  • Comment number 15.

    This is so massive for Peñarol and must be for Santos, too. What a great tournament.

  • Comment number 16.

    14 - quick note about a couple of things people might be interested in.
    I'm doing Redacao Sportv tomorrow, and those into Brazilian football might like to have a look at my column this week on the sambafoot website.

  • Comment number 17.

    #14 the difference is that Uruguay has won two World Cups, 14 Copa Americas, 8 Libertadores(Peñarol and Nacional), lots of players in top leagues all around the world, etc... they have footballing history

  • Comment number 18.

    @ 3: fully agree with you!
    @ 14: give Tim a break! Uruguay used to be amongst the best in the world, have been through a poor patch, and are now doing well again. Whether it will last no-one knows, but their record certainly puts us Brits to shame. And I shall be rooting for Santos. Just hope the final isn't delayed because of the volcano, as this would throw the Libertadores/Copa América/Brasileirão schedule into chaos.
    @ 11: SKY coverage may depend on where you live. Here in Brazil we get excellent sports coverage from ESPN, as well as local channels Bandeirantes and Globo and broadcasts of individual matches on some others too. As a result, we get to see the Copa América games, Brazilian league and EPL, Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese league and cup games. Check it out and see what channels you get where you live (also depends on the package you buy, of course).

  • Comment number 19.

    PS: my mention of TV channels by name is not meant to be promotional, but merely to inform. :o)

  • Comment number 20.

    It's difficult to pick a winning team when Penarol meets Santos. There is no past meeting or H2H between these two teams.

    http://www.soccerpunter.com/soccer-statistics/international/copa-libertadores-2011/team_info_overall/Penarol

    IMPORTANT: Penarol has never lost two consecutive matches for Copa Libertadores

  • Comment number 21.

    Great article Tim. The world is a small place these days. Nice to be able to put some history behind the names I only knew about from my old Observer pocket A-Z of Football and Subbuteo team colours chart.

    Re: Uruguay, puts things into perspective with a population of just 3 million. Then again, possibly also shows the power of familiarity and unity.

  • Comment number 22.

    Uruguay has a population roughly equivalent to Wales, and yet they're ranked 107 places higher by FIFA and got the World Cup semi-finals a year ago, whereas Wales haven't even qualified for the tournament since 1958. Weird. I think Wales should take on Uruguay's model and become the talented underdogs of Europe. Who wouldn't love to see that?

  • Comment number 23.

    In reaction to the 2nd question about the farewell friendlies - I took my 11-yr-old nephew to the Paraguay game (his 1st ever paraguay match) and before the match he didn't even know who Toro Acuña was and referred to Cabañas as "that guy shot in the head". Having seen both of them being paraded to the crowd before the game he got interested and asked me to tell him more about them. Now he knows who two Paraguayan footballing heroes are...I think that is more valuable than what Gerardo Martino learned about Santa Cruz and Haedo Valdez against a 2nd string Romanian side without a manager.

  • Comment number 24.

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

  • Comment number 25.

    One of the things I remember of the 1987 final between Peñarol and America was the blatant and annoying timewasting by the America goalkeeper (Falccioni) who seemed intent on just getting to the penalty shootout (goalkeepers could pick up a backpass back then). As an impartial observer, I was glad when Aguirre scored the winner in the 120th minute.

    Santos vs Peñarol?...Santos may have some talented players but I wouldn't bet against an Uruguayan team in a final...especially in the Copa Libertadores.

  • Comment number 26.

    @22 "Who wouldn't love to see that?"

    England? ;)

  • Comment number 27.

    Interesting analysis on Uruguay’s game.

    As to the reason why Marcelo was not called after the game against Scotland, Mano Menezes has declared that Marcelo had faked his injury. It seems that he wanted to rest himself for a Real Madrid game and Mano claims he got an email (from Marcelo) as an evidence of that. This news (in Portuguese) can be found at:
    http://esportes.terra.com.br/futebol/copaamerica/2011/

    Tim, although I agree with your comments about Marcelo, if this news is all true, it is very unlikely that Marcelo will ever get another chance with Mano. Unwillingness to play for Brazil has always been considered as “high treason”.

  • Comment number 28.

    Tim,

    I was surprised to read recently that Claudio Yacob is expected to feature in Argentina's Copa America squad, do you think that this is Batista's way of publicising the domestic game and if so do you think this is a bit of a risk from him when he could use that slot for a better foreign based player that will bring more to the team, considering the pressure they are under to win it?

  • Comment number 29.

    It really is European coldness to put a negative spin on giving old players and legendary servants a final 15 minutes farewell in friendlies. Don't be miserable!

    Friendlies are usually turgid affairs and it adds a bit of interest saying goodbye to an old star. Especially Ronaldo - as somone said - the best striker of the modern game.

    I was at an end of season game in Holland, and they brought on their retiring keeper for the final 10. The game was awful, but the crowd loved being able to show their thanks, chanting his name at every opportunity, and it was the best part of the game.

    When can we hear some comment on the state of Mexican football? How can a country of 150 million football crazy people produce worse teams than Uruguay - a country of 3 million?!

  • Comment number 30.

    I hope that in the years to come Ronaldo will get the recognition he deserves, as in my opinion of being the best striker of the last 20 years and one of the best ever! It would be a real shame if the sort of recognition the likes of Pele and Maradonna recieve from people of my generation who never seen them play, is not reserved for Ronaldo also in the years to come. He did suffer unfortunately from a heck of alot of injuries, and maybe some weight issues, but hes definitely the best striker i've seen

  • Comment number 31.

    Tim, your thoughts on Diego Forlan. I feel he deserved to win the 2010 World Player of the year, but was held back by the reputation of being a failure for Man Utd still haunting him, as well as hailing from an unfashionable country in Uruguay.

    For me he was the standout player at World Cup 2010. 5 goals and an inch away in the final minute from winning the golden boot. Some of his goals, typically spectacular. I'd say that Spain would stand a good chance of winning the world cup without Xavi. Uruguay would not have made it out of their group minus Forlan.

    He scored in a European final in May 2010 and followed a golden shoe winning 2009 with another solid scoring year.

    His determination, mentality and ability had all the hallmarks in 2010 of one of the true great strikers.

  • Comment number 32.

    Ronaldo's farewell was nice to see, but it should have been a testimonial or charity match, not a proper international.

  • Comment number 33.

    I thought Ronaldo's farewell cameo was a good gesture and it's not like it was that important a game. It was a friendly after all and he was only on for 15 minutes and even in England and Europe no-one would have begrudged such a gesture

  • Comment number 34.

    Copa games are live on Premier Sports in the UK on Sky channel 433. They also cover the Brazilian and Argentine league and the Copa Sudamerciana. 200 odd games!

  • Comment number 35.

    hi tim, very interesting article on uruaguayan football, which is little know about in the uk. the santos v penarol final should be a great game.

    on the world football phone in sat am, radio 5live i was amazed at your defence of FIFA, and the warm words about havelange, who set the allegedly corrupt system of FIFA in place, with sepp blatter working alongside him for many years as general secretary.

    yes rous probably was high handed, and did not embrace african football, but at least hid tenure in office did not have constant scandal attached to it.

    the fa is incompetent and lacks friends in world football, but surely the crucial point is the, multi billion cartel that is FIFA, and the allegedly corrupt way it does business?
    steve, durham.

  • Comment number 36.

    I would agree with hengispod Havelange & Blatter along with Juan Antonio Samanaranch at the IOC started what became endemic corruption in the way that these organisations conducted themselves which has culminated in the SLC cash for votes scandal at the IOC and the current ethics investigation into some very senior figures at FIFA. Whilst Turkeys don't vote for Christmas I can't believe that you would defend them given that they haven't really done anything for South American football other than guarantee all the best players go abroad and have a qualifying system that ensures South America gets regular world cups and that Argentina & Brazil will always qualify

  • Comment number 37.

    Tim, great to hear some good words for the mighty Peñarol. I'll be having a few loyal ex-pats and adopted fans over to watch the first leg here in Dublin, it's on live on Setanta Sports for those who are interested. Unfortunately as everybar bar and nightclub must close at 2.30pm in Ireland so we cannot go to the pub, we'll be annoying the neighbours when Martinuccio starts knocking in the goals!

  • Comment number 38.

    Any nice Peñarol fan, or someone who knows, can tell me a little about how Urreta has been doing? Has it got much playing time? If so, how well has he been playing? Thanks.

  • Comment number 39.

    England should have been in the Copa America this year. Japan had to pull out and there was a vacancy. It would have been fantastic to see England possibly playing Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay away from home, excellent build up to the 2014 world cup.

    If only club football would allow it. The Premier League has killed the national team.

  • Comment number 40.

    Many of your most interesting posts are about the changing nature of the footballing culture in South America. It certainly seems far more fluid, dynamic and open to major alterations in the style of play they produce and the quality of teams that spring up around the philosophies. It makes me think of the calcified nature of English football and its constant lip service to different philosophies but no visible changes to style of play or approach to managing the international teams at all levels. Is this an issue of 'old world' mentality or simply a lack of deep thinkers in the English game?

  • Comment number 41.

    Great blog about the Copa Libertadores and Peñarol, in particular, Tim!!

    As a British exile in Montevideo, I´ve adopted Peñarol as my team - after all, they were founded by British railway managers and workers, back in 1891 (originally, as part of The Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club... and to this day, their nickname - the Carbonero´s - comes from the word for a train´s fireman...)

    My own take on the success of Uruguay at last year´s WC (and on Peñarol in this year´s CL) is that it is, in part, derived from a key source of pride for Uruguayans - the national characteristic of "amistad" or "friendship/togetherness"...

    The concept of amistad seems to be at the heart of the way that the Uruguayans play football: very much as a team... even established international stars, like Forlan and Suarez, fought tooth and nail for the shirt in WC2010, eschewing any of the egotistical pretensions of grandeur seen by the so-called superstars of some other nations...

    Add "amistad" to a pretty un-South American, gritty style of football and you have teams that are pretty tough to beat... I, for one, am hoping that Peñarol can carry that spirit all the way through the finals and lift the cup, once again, after decades in the wilderness...

    Not bad for a country with a population roughly equivalent to that of Wales, as someone previously posted... ;)

  • Comment number 42.

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

  • Comment number 43.

    Sepp Blatter has never been found guilty of anything. Hes the saviour of world football, he has taken the world cup to new frontiers. Its not all bad.

  • Comment number 44.

    Hah. Someone had my post deleted because I stated the role of the English FA in Blatter's 1998 election and the role of Horst Dassler in FIFA in response to #35,36? And I had even apologized for going off-topic. Guess I touched a nerve.

    Back on the Copa Lib, I find it hard to see past Santos for this one unless they completely lose their cool. They did look fairly voilatile in the group stages but seem to have got their head's relatively straight since.

  • Comment number 45.

    Great Article. Could you spare 5 minutes and teach Phil how to write one. :)

  • Comment number 46.

    It's a good time to be a fan of Uruguayan footie. Aguirre's boys will beat Santos in a thrilling two-game series to remember.

  • Comment number 47.

    I'll start with the Copa Santander Libertadores: I am glad to have been proved by Peñarol, I thought they would not finish in the top two of the group they were in, but now they are in the top two of the Copa itself. I think Santos are favorites for the finals (I'd say 60-65% chance for Santos), but I may be proved wrong again.
    A question for the Brazil-based people who are commenting here: are the games on "free" TV? Not in Uruguay, at least not the first one.

  • Comment number 48.

    Having spent over 2 hours standing in a queue to get my tickets for Wednesday, I'm getting more and more excited at the prospect of seeing these two go for it. I suspect a cagey affair but hoping for a Penarol win. I have to say that being in Scotland 8 months ago, I'd have never predicted I'd get the opportunity to go to a Libertadores final. Thanks to the wife, I have taken Penarol as my team here and while we didn't win the league, this would mean so much more.

    Here's hoping!!

  • Comment number 49.

    I am surprised by the fine tuning of this analysis. Modestly, I would like to collaborate with a few other details.

    This is a time when a coach of a selection is more "selector" than "trainer". This is because the coach has little time to train, because the clubs are kings. And Uruguay is a country that is recovering economic stability, but still unable to retain stars.

    Tabarez's work with the Uruguayan team has been fabulous. Planning a way to work in the medium and long term that could give consistency to the teams. The old football truth is that teams can hide weaknesses and enhance strengths of individuals. Tabarez is also coordinating the youth uruguayan teams in a coherent project. With little budget, but very clearly.

    Uruguay's particular thing is its relatively small scale, no doubt. This works in two ways. On the one hand, very little critical mass to select players. Furthermore, there are many South America champions, Europe champions and World champions just around the corner. Willing to tell their secrets. Uruguay is almost a social network of champions.

    Do not expect all clubs to be winning, but a marked improvement in competition. This is not mystical or miracle is the result of effort and work.

  • Comment number 50.

    About Ronaldo's appearance in a friendly as a farewell match, I disagree completely with Tim. He deserved a farewell match, and yes, the Brazilian people paid more attention to Ronaldo than to the match itself, but I'm sure Menezes did not. And perhaps that helped as well, with journalists and fans leaving the national coach alone for once.

  • Comment number 51.

    Further to No.27, I read today that Mano Menezes has found himself having to defend his exclusion of Marcelo and Hernane from the squad and his explanations were i) attitude - faking an injury to give priority to his club RM; and ii) not right for the defensive midfield role, while Brazil has better players for the creative midfield role he plays for Lazio. I cannot comment on the veracity of these declarations, but certainly in terms of player quality the two merit inclusion imho.

  • Comment number 52.

    Bouncefootball(comment 29):
    "When can we hear some comment on the state of Mexican football? How can a country of 150 million football crazy people produce worse teams than Uruguay - a country of 3 million?!"

    Since the WC has 32 teams, only four have made it every time to the round of 16: Brazil, Germany, England and... Mexico.

    I agree they have never been a top team worldwide, but to assume Uruguay produces better teams just because of 2010 is wrong (I'm Uruguayan).

  • Comment number 53.

    Caro Tim: Parabéns pelo blog! Acho-o, pessoalmente, bastante inteligente e metódico, mas com um misto de amor e ódio ao Brasil. Fique tranquilo, garanto que todo brasileiro consciente e informado (3% da população) pensa da mesma forma. O fato que desejo comentar é a comparação Maradona x Pelé mencionada no Programa "Redação Sport TV". Estou certo de que você não viu o "Negão" em campo, ou não diria um absurdo daquele dito no programa. Pelé fazia a jogada sem olhar, parecia ter visão 360º. Maradona era apenas um Messi melhorado. Um forte abraço para você.

  • Comment number 54.

    @52 "Since the WC has 32 teams, only four have made it every time to the round of 16: Brazil, Germany, England and... Mexico."

    Can't really use WC qualification as a measure of quality, considering the caliber of the opposition they have to face in order to qualify. Most South American nations would have no problems qualifying from a CONCACAF group.

  • Comment number 55.

    @53 "Maradona era apenas um Messi melhorado"

    now that's surprising...a Brazilian who doesn't think much of Maradona.

    Pele always played with a team of superstars who would've likely won the WC without him (indeed, they did just so in 62)

    Maradona was Argentina...and they have struggled ever since he retired.

    IMHO, both are the greatest players ever, and we should just be thankful we had the opportunity to enjoy their football.


  • Comment number 56.

    @54, I know Mexico and US reach WC all the time thanks to their easy path, but what I am saying is that Mexico reaches the WC round of 16 EVERY TIME (unlike Italy, Argentina, France, Spain, etc.). And there they are not facing St. Vincent or Guatemala there...

  • Comment number 57.

    Tim, is Marcelo Bielsa going to be the new Inter manager?

 

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