Meet the Gatekeepers of World Cup Success

If the FIFA World Cup is a well-known, historical textual content, then Uruguay is its scribe. This nation has been there since the very starting of this world match, as trustworthy a witness of its development and progress as any New Testament disciple, and each time they qualify Uruguay performs one of its most treasured roles: that of “the gatekeeper”. The gatekeeper is the guardian of the World Cup’s highest requirements: put merely, the second you beat them, you’re thought to be a official title contender. They have by some means managed to attain a constant, nearly ageless excellence in the area of fight, just a little like Gandalf in JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Like Gandalf, their consistency is all the extra exceptional for being outnumbered or outsized by their fiercest opponents. Despite having a inhabitants of about three and a half million folks, Uruguay has received the World Cup and its speedy successor (the Olympic match, in 1924 and 1928) a complete of 4 instances. Although there was a interval after they struggled to make it to the match, they’ve at all times been formidable after they obtained there; steadily reaching the second spherical, and sometimes going additional. They additionally appear to thrive in environments that might make most others despair. In 2010, with the will of seemingly a whole continent in opposition to them, they overcame Ghana in the quarter-finals in South Africa. In 1950, to the silent horror of nearly 1 / 4 of 1,000,000 supporters in the Maracana Stadium, they beat the host nation Brazil in the last by two targets to 1. This is to not point out their distinctive file of having claimed 15 Copa América titles, a file they maintain with Argentina, and the indisputable fact that they’ve received all eight tournaments that they’ve held in Uruguay. When they’re on dwelling soil, the message to their rivals is at all times the similar: You shall not go.

To be this good for this lengthy, you should be masters of each renewal and regeneration. This 12 months’s squad comprises not solely veterans, however those that are maturing in thrilling trend. In the former camp they’ve Fernando Muslera, Martín Cáceres, Diego Godín, Edinson Cavani, and Luis Suárez, every of whom can be competing at their fourth World Cup. In the latter camp, they’ve Darwin Núñez and Rodrigo Bentancur, who’ve proven more and more assured ending in latest weeks, and Ronald Araújo, the defender whose dedication to drag himself again from harm is a continuing inspiration. Most excitingly, additionally they have Fede Valverde, who on present type is one of the absolute best midfielders in the world. The supplier of the help that received Real Madrid final season’s UEFA Champions League, the scorer of quite a few important targets for them, Valverde is one of the most blue-collar wizards that trendy soccer has seen, much more well-known for his work ethic than the magic he produces. Whether he operates in a defensive position or additional forwards, he merely doesn’t care how his efficiency seems, so long as it brings his workforce victory. While Gandalf was all long-flowing sleeves and a chic grey beard, Valverde is the kind of wizard who would flip as much as battle in a pair of overalls, wanting as if he had been dragged backwards by means of brambles; his wand tucked behind one ear, his face smudged with ink from scribbling down a brand new set of spells.

For all their technical presents, Uruguay is mostly not a workforce to overwhelm opponents with a flurry of targets. More typically than not, their victories are typically a factor of visibly arduous toil, whilst they’ve been illuminated over the years by the brilliance of stars similar to Enzo Francescoli—the winger so bewitching that Zinedine Zidane named a son after him. In phrases of their type of play, they’re typically someplace near Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid at their peak: a wise, environment friendly unit, who created the platform for a pair of distinctive soloists to flourish in assault. In their coach Diego Alonso—who himself starred for Atlético Madrid in 2001-02—they seem to have a promising successor to the nice Óscar Washington Tabárez, who led Uruguay for 15 years.

In their group in Qatar, they are going to want all the resilience they’ll muster. The World Cup’s chief gatekeepers are about to come across vital boundaries of their very own. They will face Ghana, South Korea, and Portugal, every of whom could be worthy second-round opponents, and who all characteristic elite attackers of their ranks: Mohammed Kudus and Iñaki Williams for Ghana, Son Heung-min for South Korea, and Rafael Leão, João Félix, and Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal. Whoever prevails from that group can be as battle-hardened as any aspect left in the competitors: whether or not or not Uruguay undergo, they are going to once more have represented the supreme check. They have joined, returned to, and remained at soccer’s excessive desk for nearly a century, and have received extra World Cup glory per capita than any footballing nation on the planet. There will be no better achievement than that.

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