Uruguay boasts a pair of lethal strikers and an up-and-coming generation of talent, and it is the favorite to get out of a group featuring Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

By 90Min
May 30, 2018

Two-time World Cup winner Uruguay is widely expected to do well at this year's edition and is once again being tipped as a dark horse to make a deep run.

Starting in Group A, La Celeste are expected to make easy work of their group - facing up against Egypt, Saudi Arabia and hosts Russia.

As the standout team in the group, the South American side appears to have a golden path to the knockout stage, and is being widely predicted to top the group. Here's what you need to know about Luis Suarez & Co.


Style of Play

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Manager Oscar Tabarez is well-known for building his teams from the back–with a solid defensive line that makes it very difficult for the opposition to score–before recycling the ball forward towards world-class strikers Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

The 71-year-old is unlikely to spring any real surprises in Russia this summer, and so fans can look forward to a solid defensive shape, with fullbacks who attack only when absolutely necessary, and a midfield that is more combative than creative.

Uruguay's football is simple but effective. It shuts down any kind of attack the opposition can mount, before getting the ball forward as quickly and dangerously as possible. The Tabarez-style is vertical football with one aim: hit opponents on the break. It's a South American take on the classic English route-one system.


How They Qualified

After the 18 qualifying matches in the CONMEBOL South American qualification process ahead of the World Cup, Uruguay finished second behind Brazil with 31 points.

Winning nine games, drawing four and losing five, Uruguay had a fairly positive qualifying campaign and managed to keep its head just above the six-team final day battle for the remaining two automatic spots and the playoff spot.

With 10 goals in qualifying, Cavani was the top goalscorer on the continent and will look to continue that form ahead of the tournament.


Group Stage (June 14-28)

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Uruguay starts its World Cup campaign with a game against Egypt on June 15.

Encouraging for the South Americans is that Egypt's main threat, Mohamed Salah, is likely to miss the game following his injury in the Champions League final. The Premier League golden boot winner suffered a shoulder injury after a challenge with Sergio Ramos.

The South Americans then take on Saudi Arabia five days later in Rostov.

The Saudis are sort of an unknown element in the tournament, having not been at a World Cup since 2006–but back in their tournament debut at USA '94 they did reach the round of 16, as well as scoring that goal from Saeed Al-Owairan.

Uruguay plays its final group game on June 25 against host nation Russia in Samara.


Route to the Final

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Uruguay is expected to top Group A which would set up a meeting vs. Group B's runner-up.

Group B features both 2010 World Cup winner Spain and current European champion Portugal, as well as Morocco and Iran. Most presume that Spain and Portugal will qualify from the group, so it will be one of those that Uruguay would face en route to the quarterfinals.

Tabarez's side would then go up against teams from Group C and D that make it into the quarterfinal stage. Those groups include France and Argentina, but beyond that a few surprise packages possibly in the likes of Croatia, Denmark and Peru.

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Should Uruguay manage to progress to the final, it would be its third World Cup final appearance in history and first since 1950. La Celeste have won both of the World Cup finals in which they have featured before, in the inaugural competition in 1930, and again 20 years later.

Since then, Uruguay has reached fourth place on three occasions, most recently in South Africa in 2010.

It's an impressive track record for a country with the seventh-smallest population to have featured at a World Cup.


Squad

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Goalkeepers: Martin Campana (Independiente), Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama)

Defenders: Martin Caceres (Lazio), Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Maximiliano Pereira (Porto), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Guillermo Varela (Penarol)

Midfielders: Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Gaston Ramirez (Sampdoria), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matias Vecino (Inter Milan)

Forwards: Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta), Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Luis Suarez (Barcelona)


Predicted Lineup

(4-4-2): Fernando Muslera; Guillermo Varela, Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez, Martin Caceres; Nahitan Nandez, Matias Vecino, Carlos Sanchez, Cristian Rodriguez; Luis Suarez, Edison Cavani


Outlook

Football is a wonderfully unpredictable sport, but it would be shocking if the South Americans did not qualify from their group.

Egypt perhaps offers the biggest threat, but with an either unavailable or not fully fit Salah - it will be one of the two - even the Pharoahs aren't likely to provide that big a threat.

The knockout stage is where Tabarez and his side should start to be tested and their tournament will go one of two ways. Either, they will fall at the hands of Spain/Portugal at the round of 16, or they will be set to progress deep into the latter stages of the competition.

It's got the potential to be a good World Cup for Uruguay, but it will all come down to that deciding game in the last 16.

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