History is on Uruguay’s Side
With a record 15 Copa América titles, two world cups and two Olympic gold medals, it comes as no surprise that the current crop of Uruguayan footballers are being tipped for glory once more at the 2012 London Olympics. Despite the attentions of a Stuart Pearce-led Team GB and a Spanish squad that features three players from their recent Euro 2012 winning campaign, there is enough evidence to suggest the boys from La Celeste will be the ones to watch.
After a heroic fourth-place finish in the 2010 World Cup and an astonishing 15th Copa America championship in 2011, Oscar Tabarez can be hopeful his Olympic team can continue the nation’s proud succession of results at the top of international football. Despite the Olympic tournament’s ‘backseat’ reputation when compared to the World Cup and European Championships, favourites Spain and Brazil have both selected squads bursting with talent.
The Key Man – Luis Suarez
Uruguay have chosen to include Liverpool front-man Suarez as an overage player in their 18-man squad, and the diminutive forward bagged a hat-trick in a warm-up match against an extremely resolute Chile side. Despite being 2-0 down, Uruguay came back to defeat their South American neighbours 6-4, and head into the Olympic tournament in imperious form. He is fast taking over responsibility for leading the frontline from an ageing Diego Forlan, at the same time closing in on the Inter striker’s record of 33 international goals. With Cavani likely to keep the opposition centre-backs busy with his aerial presence and frightening physique, the Liverpool striker would be expected to pick up his team-mates pieces and link up fluidly with the midfield. Supporting the front two would be Palermo ace Hernandez to offer a plethora of attacking wealth.
The Attacking Prowess
Great Britain have a front three consisting of Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy, Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge, and, somewhat surprisingly, Bolton’s Marvin Sordell. Although there is considerable talent on offer in the forms of Bellamy and Sturridge, Bellamy hardly possesses a genuine goalscoring threat anymore, preferring to play out wide on the left and cut inside to fashion chances, while Sturridge has been often stuck out wide on the right for Chelsea, especially during Villas Boas’ short tenure.
Conversely, Uruguay effectively have their preferred front two on call, in the powerhouse Edinson Cavani, and the tricky Luis Suarez; both supported by the excellent Abel Hernandez, and a further Serie A prodigy, Gaston Fernandez. The national side have found the net in all of their last 12 games, including ten in the last two matches alone. In that same period Suarez has bagged 13 for himself – something for Micah Richards and co to look out for – whilst Cavani just finished the domestic season with 33 goals in all competitions.
He (Suarez) is fast taking over responsibility for leading the frontline from an ageing Diego Forlan, at the same time closing in on the Inter striker’s record of 33 international goals.
The Backline – Montero would be proud
Uruguay can feel confident from progressing from their group at least. Not only do they possess a terrifying scope of pace, power and creativity in the final third of the pitch, they have two genuinely exciting prospects at the heart of their defence. What they make up for in a lack of creativity in the centre of the park that Team GB possess in Manchester youngster Tom Cleverley, they more than make up for in fortitude at the back. Though he spent much of the 2011/12 season warming the Liverpool bench, Sebastian Coates has a growing reputation as a classy, yet solid centre-back – exacerbated by that volley against Queens Park Rangers. Coupled with him is the emerging talent of Diego Polenta, who currently plays for Serie A outfit, Genoa. Versatile at the back, the young defender made his competitive debut for Il Grifone last season and is comfortable at both left-back and centre-half.
More than just a Hurdle for Team GB
Uruguay sport a squad of which ten of the players currently play outside their home nation, which ostensibly point to a weakness in the Uruguayan domestic league, but also highlights the ability of these youngsters to find success in top European leagues. With Team GB meeting La Celeste in the group stages, the likes of Brazil and Spain – expected to walk their own respective groups – will have time to prepare before they meet the Uruguayan onslaught first-hand. For Stuart Pearce’s men, most of whom have little to no experience at the top of international football, the arrival of Tabarez and his rampaging forward line, could spell more than just a minor upset. Great Britain, therefore, have arguably the hardest route to the finals.
Team GB may well be on home soil and top the Olympic football pile with three golds, but all that could count for relatively little if they let the Uruguayans play. Familiarity could well be an ally in helping shackle Suarez, but that is by no means the end of the battle; if Cavani is allowed to bully the back four, Hernandez allowed the space to create behind the front two, and Fernandez given room to run at the full-backs, it would be no surprise if Uruguay continue their fine goalscoring form.
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