All throughout South America, the media outlets from all of the ten participating countries is salivating. They have come to a consensus decision that this will be the most competitive qualifiers ever. The reason why every one says that is that every team has a legitimate chance to fight for the playoff spot against the fourth-place CONCACAF team.
When John Aloisi hit the game-winning penalty pick at the Telstra Dome in Sydney, Uruguay’s hopes for a return trip to the World Cup would redeem a generation full of talent. For several, this is their swansong from La Celeste as chances to return to the world’s greatest sporting event dwindle quickly.
This is why former coach Oscar Washington Tabárez made return to the national team. The last time he was at the helm he narrowly went through the second round of Italia ’90. That was another side loaded with talented players the likes of Enzo Francescoli, Ruben Sosa, Antonio Alzamendi, Daniel Fonseca, Pablo Bengoechea, Ruben Paz, and Santiago Ostolaza.
Although not surrounded by legendary talent as he was in 1990, Tabárez does have a young group of players at his disposal that will gel great with the veteran players. Yes, Fabian Carini, the goalkeeper that had the least amount of starts for Inter just happens to now be the most capped goalkeeper in Uruguayan history. Regardless of that quirk in fate, he still offers Tabárez the stability in the back.
On the attack some of the old and some of the new will compete for a starting spot on this club. Sebastián Abreu and Diego Forlán will always be in the thick of things. They both define the striker position in different ways. Forlán is thorough and elegant at the same time, while Abreu is all about chaos and inventing spectacular yet rudimentary techniques to beat goalkeepers. This is what Carlos Bueno brings to the table as well. The fiery Boca Juniors player leaves it all on the pitch- some instances to a fault. When in his zone he is unstoppable, but in recent times, he has been trying to do things two speeds too fast. The lack of playing time does not help either. All of which is a result of being in a club currently with two players the likes of Martín Palermo and Rodrigo Palacio that bring so much to the table. Lack of playing time is not the case with Luis Suárez, who is currently one of the leading scorers for Dutch giants Ajax. His goal-a-game pace has help his team once again fight eternal rivals PSV Eindhoven for the top spot and has consolidated himself in a new partnership with Jan-Klaas Huntelaar.
Vicente Sánchez proved his worth in the Mexican league and is becoming one of the Celeste’s go-to players. Obviously, with so much clutter in the middle of the field and in the box, he will be the man that will generate the offense outside of the box and on set pieces. With the absence of Álvaro Recoba, he will be the man on the dead balls.
Álvaro Recoba was not called up even though he is now getting more playing time with Torino after years of riding the pine with Inter. The neroazzurri loaned him out to the Turin side this summer. He is not in the best of form presently having started five matches and only scoring once for il Toro. His present club is already fighting for their relegation lives with only four points earned out a possible 18.
For one of the greatest playmakers in Uruguay since Enzo Francescoli this could be curtains for his international career. He did show sparks of brilliance in the Copa América this past summer, but his nagging injuries overshadowed those moments, preventing him from become an even greater protagonist. Still expect him to be in the mix in future callups, especially if they face any early troubles.
They will be one of those eight teams fighting for two and a half spots for South Africa. If you look at teams outside of Argentina and Brazil, they are the ones that are constantly in the hunt. No longer do they have that mystique of being a two-time World Cup winner. Some these players’ parents were still in diapers when Alcides Ghiggia scored the game-winner at the Maracanã.
Uruguay can be a high-flyer with the talent that they have, yet they tend to trudge at times. They are a very mentally tough side and very difficult team to break defensively. On the offense, they have all the tools to torch even the best of teams, but the absence of certain players like Recoba become evident in the creation of plays. In the air they are deadly with players like Forlán, and even Pablo García, Diego Godín, Andrés Scotti, and Diego Lugano on corner kicks and set pieces if needed.
They are a very streaky team and are not the best away side. In the 2006 (including Australia), they conceded 19 goals in ten matches. They only earned five (all draws) out of a possible 27 in qualifying play. Although that was enough for a playoff spot, they will have to do more in order to get away with it this time around. They seem to be one team within the friendly confines of the Centenario, but another side when they play on the road. They are a side that reminisced the physical Uruguayan football that was synonymous with their past.
They are not a good team coming from behind. Of their 18 matches in 2006, they lost all of their matches in which they were scored on first. You can even include this stat to the past Copa América where they lost to Peru 3-0 in group play.
Fabián Carini, (Real Murcia- ESP)
Juan Castillo (Peñarol)
Esteban Conde (Danubio)
Diego Lugano (Fenerbahce- TUR)
Diego Godín (Villarreal- ESP)
Andrés Scotti (Argentinos Juniors ARG)
Carlos Valdez (Reggina, ITA)
Jorge Fucile (Porto, POR)
Martín Cáceres (Recreativo Huelva-ESP)
Martín Rodríguez (River Plate)
Maximiliano Pereira (Defensor)
Diego Pérez (Monaco-FRA)
Alvaro González (Boca Juniors, ARG)
Pablo García (Real Murcia, ESP)
Sebastián Ariosa (Defensor)
Walter Gargano (Napoli-ITA)
Julio Mozzo (Peñarol)
Diego Forlán (Atlético Madrid- ESP)
Sebastián Abreu (Tigres-MEX)
Carlos Bueno (Boca Juniors-ARG)
Luis Suárez (Ajax- NED)
Vicente Sánchez (Toluca-MEX)
Mario Regueiro (Real Murcia-ESP)
Cristian Rodríguez (Benfica-POR)