Nov 5 (Reuters) – Two-time champions Uruguay once dominated world football and their star may not be as bright as it once was, but Qatar may still have a mix of hardened veterans and talented youngsters.
Oscar Tabarez’s 15-year reign ended in December after four straight defeats in qualifying. Diego Alonso made the changes with his first four wins in charge at the World Cup.
‘La Celeste’ is Luis Suarez, an aging stalwart; They still rely on Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin, but they have Darwin Nunez; There are emerging talents in Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur.
“They are great players at world level. They make a difference physically and technically,” Suarez told Marca.
“Our squad has a lot of quality, a combination of experience and youth, and that has a huge influence on the World Cup.”
But Alonso is still finding the right balance between veterans and youngsters, and has yet to find a system to bring the best out of his talented roster.
Team captain and centre-back Godin played the most minutes in Uruguay’s qualifiers, but in the twilight of his 38th career, he missed September’s friendlies against Iran and Canada due to injury.
With 126 international goals between them, the three-time World Cup winner Suarez-Cavani has long been a hallmark of Uruguay’s attack, but Alonso concluded the 35-year-old pair could no longer pair up.
Nunez is better suited to play alongside Cavani or Suarez in Uruguay’s tried-and-trusted 4-4-2, but with a three-man midfield formation, Matias Vecino gives Valverde and Bentancur their full play.
Uruguay looked even more vulnerable at the back after Alonso conceded a single goal against Iran after Vecino was dropped in a 2-0 win over Canada.
They will be punished by tougher opposition, Portugal. A balanced Group H featuring Ghana and South Korea is sure to face tough tests as well.
Uruguay reached the last four in 2010, beating then-European champions Portugal in the quarter-finals in Russia in 2018 and beating Ghana and South Korea in 2010.
If Alonso can resolve his predecessor’s selection dilemmas, Uruguay could be well placed to progress to the knockout stages with another win in Qatar.
Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Edited by Ken Ferris.
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