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Football in construction: Uruguay

     In the last posts of this series called Football in construction, we talked about Tite´s Brazil and how it has consolidated as the best South American national team, being the closest to fight with the Europeans. 

(Click here if you want to read about Tite´s Brazil)

Now it is the turn of what we think is the second most consolidated national team in South America, the maestro Oscar Washington Tabárez Uruguay´s.

Uruguay was South America’s first great national team in football history.

Before the first World Cup was played in 1930, the charruas already dominated the world scene after winning two consecutive gold medals in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics.

These achievements enable Uruguay to become the hosts of the first FIFA World Cup which they will end up winning in 1930. Afterward, in 1950, they won their second World Cup after defeating Brazil in their stadium in what was known as the “maracanazo”.

Without a doubt, we are talking about one of the greatest national teams in football history.

Therefore, being Uruguay´s manager is a great responsibility and Oscar Washington Tabárez has carried the burden fantastically for a long time.

Teacher by profession, manager for love

Tabárez has raised the Uruguayan national team reputation again after many years of silence.

Despite being recognized for the cycle as Uruguayan manager since 2006, it is worth remembering that the maestro Tabárez had his first cycle with Los charrua from 1989 to 1990.

During that period, the Uruguayan team achieved a second place in 1989 Copa America and reached the Round of 16 in the 1990 World Cup.

Even though Tabárez didn’t continue commanding Uruguay, the team´s performances in both tournaments showed that he wasn’t a bad manager.

In fact, during Tabárez’s absence, Uruguay failed to qualify for two World Cups, Korea-Japan 2002 and Germany 2006.

Nevertheless, el maestro, that for so many years taught at primary schools in Montevideo´s suburbs, returned to the Uruguayan bench in 2006 and today he is still there.

Tabárez teaching in a Primary school

Uruguay’s revival

Since 2006, Tabarez hasn’t missed a single World Cup. Uruguay qualified for South-Africa 2010, Brasil 2014, and Russia 2018, in none of them they went out in the group stage.

After 14 years as Uruguay´s manager, Tabárez has put the celeste on the radar again. With a lot of effort and dedication not only in the senior team but in all the inferior categories which had been a fundamental part of his success.

During this 14 years’ cycle, Uruguay hasn’t been known for playing a very pleasant football to the spectator’s eyes, but for their famous playstyle, la Garra charrua.

The garra charrua is characterized by being a playstyle with a lot of tactical organization and personal sacrifice from every player in the field.

Logically, this means that a lot of contacts exist (never looking to hurt the opponent) whenever you play against Uruguay, as during the 90 minutes no player will give up a ball.

And this playing idea has been perfectly embodied by Tabárez in all the Uruguayan football system.

From the senior team to the U-15 one, the same playing philosophy is applied, which helps the young players that moved to the senior team to adapt faster to the playing style.

In fact, since Tabarez arrival, Uruguay never qualified for so many World Cups in different categories in such a short time before as it is shown in the chart below:

Highlighting the second place obtained in 2011 by the U-17 and the second place by the U-20 in 2013, we can see how successful the Uruguayan inferior categories had been during the last decade.

If there was something that Tabárez wanted to consolidate, that were the inferior categories.

As he said it the day of his appointment as Uruguay´s manager, he exposed for more than an hour the project he wanted for Uruguayan football.

Furthermore, if we look closer to the table above, we can see how the Uruguayans categories always passed from the group stage only except for one participation, and this talks of the good record the Uruguayans teams have, and the future they could have.

The maestro Tabárez has demonstrated how good he is teaching young men and adults, restructuring Uruguayan football, and at the same time achieving good results.

With organization, natural talent shines

As we mentioned before, the fierce playing style and the personal sacrifice of each player proposed by Uruguay make that the team rely heavily on his stars to achieve a disequilibrium in matches.

The tactical but especially the defensive functioning of the team is accomplished after a great collective effort by every single player on the field.

However, the celeste has always needed his game-changer players to exploit his opponent’s weaknesses.

If we look back into Uruguay´s greatest successes since Tabárez’s arrival in 2006, we can see that both in their fourth place in South-Africa 2010 and the Copa America 2011 first place, they depended in their great defensive labor but especially in their star players.

During this whole process, the goalkeeper Fernando Muslera has been a key piece and practically irrepressible, just like the defender, Diego Lugano who used to be partnered with which is now the great boss in the Uruguayan defense, Diego Godín.

But, far beyond these extraordinary defenders, the success in both tournaments was thanks to the splendid performances of Uruguay star players, the strikers.

In 2010, Diego Forlan was the charruas great star as he scored 5 goals besides being awarded the prize as the best player of the World Cup. Meanwhile, Suarez shined in the 2011 Copa America scoring 4 goals.

Forlan (Left), Suarez (Right) – Photo: https://peru.com/

Even when the tactical merit behind Uruguay is remarkable, in their most successful moments, it never stopped being a team who depended on their stars, and when this were not playing well, the team failed to achieve great things.

A consolidated project with a new course

With 202 games in his back and despite all the physical problems that at his 73 years had depleted his movement, the maestro Tabárez seems to be satisfied at his school, the Uruguayan national team.

Even if in the last year’s Uruguay hasn’t reached final stages in tournaments, the base that the maestro Tabárez has built is still deep-rooted inside the National team.

Sometimes, the sensation is that even if tomorrow Taberez leaves Uruguay´s bench, the team would continue to follow the same path regardless of who takes control of the team.

Russia 2018 World cup, was a good demonstration of how the garra charrua has been evolving as time passes by.

Very few players from that successful Uruguay of 2010-11 played in Russia 2018, which shows the renovation in the team squad. 

And even after all the changes, la celeste is still a very fierce and sacrifice team, but with the huge difference that it is now a more collective team in all the parts of the field, which means that they do not rely on their stars as in the past.

Probably, that is the reason why, along with Brazil, Uruguay was the other no European team to reach the quarter-finals in Russia 2018, knocking out a team such as Cristiano Ronaldo´s Portugal in the round of 16.

Maybe they are not at the same level that Tite´s Brazil is, but as long as Uruguay continues to develop that fierce football but every time more collective, it may end being a team capable to face the great European nations.

Is Uruguay the second most consolidated team in America?

We wait for your comments below.

In the next post of Football in construction, we will talk about a team that should be successful but during the last years has been unstable, Argentina.

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