Diego Alonso chose his final 26-man squad list of Uruguay for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and it contains the usual campaigners as always as some sparkling debutants in the competition. Two-time winner Uruguay are participating in their 15th World Cup finals. However, they haven’t reached the semi-final stage since 1970. La Celeste have only lost one game since Alonso took charge and are hopeful to keep the positive mentality going at Qatar.
Uruguay are the inaugural winner of the World Cup, then known as the Jules Rimet trophy, in 1930 and also the winner of the 1950 edition when they famously beat Brazil in their own patch at Maracana in front of the highest attendance ever recorded for a competitive football game with 199,854. The record stays till now. Uruguay won the game 2-1 in the final when only a few betted on them to be the champions. Brazil themselves were so confident of winning the final that they even inscribed their player’s name on the gold medals and recorded a winners’ song to be played at full-time. Those were abolished straight after the defeat including a switch to the famous yellow and green shirt from the white shirts that they used to wear at that time. It remains one of the iconic moments of World Cup history. La Celeste failed to match those highs and achieved fourth place as the next best achievement in 1954, 1970 and most recently in the 2010 World Cup. Oscar Míguez is the top scorer for Uruguay in World Cup with eight while goalkeeper Fernando Muslera is the record appearance maker by featuring in 16 matches in the tournament.
Uruguay reached the quarter final stage four years ago to be defeated by competition holders France 2-0. Overall, they had an excellent campaign grouped with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and hosts Russia. They had ousted the opposition easily, topping the group by winning all of their games. Uruguay scored five goals at this stage and impressively conceded none. Their next big achievement was eliminating then Euro winners Portugal from the tournament in the round of 16 stage. Edinson Cavani scored two excellent goals on either end of a leveler from Pepe to send La Celeste. Against Les Bleus, they could not keep the same level of performance or excitement in their playing and exited the contest.
Uruguay almost made their life very difficult for them in the qualifiers going five games without winning including losing four in last October that almost put them out of 2022 World Cup participation. Long-standing coach Oscar Tavareas was sacked after a humiliating 3-0 loss to Bolivia in his last game to be replaced by Inter Miami coach Diego Alonso. La Celeste then went on to win the last four games left in the qualifiers to seal qualification under his management. Uruguay kept three clean sheets in that period, conceded only one and scored eight goals. The team ultimately finished third with 28 points and zero goal difference. Luis Suarez scored the most goals in the team with eight.
Preparation for World Cup
The Preparation for the 2022 World Cup has mixed for Uruguay as they picked three impressive wins against Mexico, Panama and Canada but played an underwhelming 0-0 draw against a young USA side, also losing to Iran unconvincingly in the five friendlies played. However, their defensive record has been impressive as the loss to Iran was the only time they conceded post-qualifiers. That was also the only time the team failed to score under Alonso.
Uruguay 2022 World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Sergio Rochet (Nacional), Sebastian Sosa (Independiente)
Defenders: Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Sporting CP), Diego Godin (Velez Sarsfield), Martin Caceres (LA Galaxy), Ronald Araujo (Barcelona), Guillermo Varela (Flamengo), Jose Luis Rodriguez (Nacional), Mathias Olivera (Napoli), Matias Vina (Roma)
Midfielders: Lucas Torreira (Galatasaray), Manuel Ugarte (Sporting CP), Matias Vecino (Lazio), Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham Hotspur), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Facundo Pellistri (Manchester United), Nicolas De La Cruz (River Plate)
Forwards: Agustin Canobbio (Athletico Paranaense), Facundo Torres (Orlando City), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Flamengo), Maxi Gomez (Trabzonspor), Luis Suarez (Nacional), Edinson Cavani (Valencia), Darwin Nunez (Liverpool)
Coach: Diego Alonso
Iconic manager Oscar Tavares will not be leading Uruguay to another World Cup having taken reign of the team for 15 years. He was sacked last year after poor results in the South American qualifiers almost putting the nation out of contention for the World Cup in Qatar. Diego Alonso replaced him and will be hugging the touchline for his first major international competition. He has gone for the experienced striker duo, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani to appear for their fourth consecutive World Cup. Liverpool striker Darwin Nunez has been included for his debut in the competition while eyes will also be on Federico Valverde for his gallant displays with Real Madrid. Ronald Araujo initially ruled out of the tournament, has made a miraculous recovery to get fit for the tournament. He is a vital cog in the defence for La Celeste and the news comes as a big boost for the team. Suarez is just one goal shy of Oscar Miguez’s scoring record for his nation at the World Cup while Cavani and Godin are chasing the record appearance-maker list.
The strength of the squad will be their vastly experienced World Cup veterans. Luis Suarez (35), Edinson Cavani (35) and Diego Godin (36) are still the pillars of the side who want to make their last World Cup as grand as possible. The squad is also bringing the next generation of footballers ready to carry the legacy of their heroes. Federico Valverde, Facundo Pellistri, Manuel Ugarte and Darwin Nunez are some of the best the nation is producing and they would like to offer their talent on the grandest stage to assure it. A good mix of the old and new is something Uruguay is counting on. La Celeste have also shown to be defensively potent, not conceding may goals, which will make them difficult to score against this season.
However, the team is still heavily dependent on its ageing stars. Far worse, Diego Godin and Luis Suarez are not in the European mix anymore and although they are doing their bits, their performance is not like in their prime for obvious reasons. Cavani is still competing in one of the big leagues in Europe with Valencia in Spain, however, his career has been switched between free agent and an injury-prone stint at Manchester United over the years. Not quite polished since leaving PSG we should say. A lot of pressure is on the youth to deliver in their maiden World Cup and their recent 1-0 loss to Iran in a friendly match suggests they are not quite ready material yet. Diego Alonso is still getting his tactics with the squad played under his predecessor for such a long time.
Star Player: Federico Valverde
The veterans will serve importance once again for Uruguay and Darwin Nunez would like to make the most of the occasion to show the goal scorer he is. Yet, Federico Valverde’s significance to the team seems to eclipse others. La Celeste needs someone to bring about a flair in midfield and the Real Madrid player is the right one to call upon. Capable of playing anywhere in midfield, Valverde can also slot in an unorthodox right winger role to give more attacking edge as he does for his club. His versatility is a great asset for Diego Alonso to have. The 24-year-old also arrives with goals particularly outside of the box that are often screamers. He is also a progressive passer and a shot creator, something Uruguay did not have an abundance of from midfield in past editions. Valverde will bring that dynamism and something extra special to this squad at the tournament.
How will Uruguay lineup at the World Cup?
If the 4-4-2 formation is the way for the team again, Diego Alonso has a big decision to make whether he wants to field the legendary striker duo of his nation at the same time or go one with Cavani or Suarez and put Darwin Nunez up front. Considering both will have less mobility up front and are not in their prime scoring form, Alonso may be tempted to use the latter but the experience of the pair is equally required on the pitch. Youngster Facundo Pellistri will start right of the four in midfield with Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde taking the central roles. The partnership of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, like during Atletico Madrid days, looks to be ideal for the centre-half position while Sergio Oliviera who is performing magnificently with Napoli should start on the left. Sergio Rochet will be the last man standing as Alonso preferred choice even though Fernando Muslera has experience guarding the fort for his nation in the last two editions of the World Cup.
Opponents & Fixtures
Uruguay vs South Korea - 24 November 2022, Education City Stadium (6:30 PM)
Portugal vs Uruguay - 29 November 2022, Lusail Stadium (12:30 AM)
Ghana vs Uruguay - 2 December 2022, Al Janoub Stadium (8:30 PM)
Uruguay faces South Korea in their opening group stage game for the 2022 World Cup on 24th November which promises to be a tight affair. Getting the win will be key for La Celeste as they face a colossal task against Portugal in the rematch of the last 16 stage four years ago. A draw will be enough to get them through to the next round otherwise three points or bust in the last group stage game against Ghana early next month.
Uruguay under new management after 15 years will like to be a powerhouse in the competition again and Diego Alonso’s managerial skills will be put to test. Whether the experienced campaigners or the young debutants could do their business on international football’s grandest stage is a big question to ask. If everything clicks, then this time Uruguay could pose more threat and can go further into the contest. But it will be a long shot to call if the team continues to heavily rely on the oldies. Additionally, there are more talented opposition around to be wary of.