If Brazil were the runaway winners of the South American qualifying group, Óscar Tabárez’s Uruguay never looked like they would miss out on qualifying for this summer’s World Cup, either. This is a Uruguayan side who have added increased flair to their structured discipline, and sees them sat just outside of the tournament favourites in Russia, a vantage point they will feel comfortable in.
For those interested in football betting on this summer’s tournament Uruguay could reflect a sensible investment. While their qualifying campaign contained five defeats, this is not particularly unorthodox in a group as competitive as the 90-game campaign that runs over a two-year period.
Even Brazil, who have looked close to their best at times, have struggled at times, including draws with the likes of Bolivia, Colombia and Paraguay and losing 2-0 away to Chile early in the campaign. Uruguay themselves managed a 2-2 draw in March 2016, when they travelled to Recife to face Brazil.
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In fact, that game in the Arena Pernambuco illustrated this side’s resilience. Having gone down to a first-minute goal from Douglas Costa, Renato Augusto made it 2-0 on 26 minutes. Despite the game and momentum working against them, Edison Cavani pulled one back for the visitors. Three minutes after half-time, Luis Suarez equalised, silencing the intense home crowd.
When referee Pitana Nestor blew the final whistle, Brazil where entitled to feel the more relieved of the two sides, an away win would have been a fair result. Within three months, Brazilian coach Dunga would be sacked. And while Brazil have returned to form since, Uruguay have stuttered on occasion, most noticeably in the return game with Brazil when new manager Tite saw them saunter to a 4-1 victory in Montevideo.
However, despite some unspectacular performances in friendlies against the likes of Ireland and Italy, both last June, a fine finish to the qualifiers saw a well earned 0-0 draw at home to Argentina who were desperate for the points in September and adroit victories over the likes of Paraguay and Bolivia.
Group A for Uruguay, against whom they open their World Cup in Russia against Egypt, is seen as a three-way fight for two places. The momentum that can come with being the host nation will give Russia an edge, and an edge they probably need. Saudi Arabia will be seen as the weak link in the group. However, it was the Saudi’s performances in qualifying that edged Australia down the route of the playoffs. To dismiss them in their entirety would be foolhardy.
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Along with Suarez and Cavani, Uruguay has a lot more to offer going forward than their two-pronged attack; Cavani leading the line and Suarez doing what he does best in stretching and battling with defences with no little dexterity. In Federico Valverde, Matías Vecino, Nahitan Nández and Rodrigo Bentancur, Uruguay have young, dynamic players who will add a flair to the side that should complement their typically robust defence.
If their profile is lower than in previous tournaments, that can only be a good thing, They will be expected to escape their group, but it is the ability they have in attack that could see them defy expectations.