Outsiders Uruguay can create one last World Cup surprise
As a two-time winner of the World Cup, Uruguay can think themselves a little hard done by to be rudely dismissed by many pundits as the minnows of this tournament’s final four.
At 11/1 to win the event, the odds certainly agree but with a tactically astute manager, a sprinkling of top quality players and strong momentum behind them, Uruguay should not be written off.
As their odds of 5/6 to finish fourth show, it’s easy to forget that the South Americans topped a strong group including talented-but-dysfunctional France, spiky Mexico and hosts South Africa.
It’s true that their run to semis was on paper easier than the other teams left – they beat South Korea, the 47th best team in the world, and 32nd-ranked Ghana while each of the other sides overcame at least one top-eight opponent.
But the slate is a clean one now and, as many matches so far have shown, anything can happen in one-off encounters.
Oscar Tabarez has organised his defence into a stingy bunch with only two goals let in at the tournament and eight conceded in the past 12 games. If Uruguay get Diego Godin and Diego Lodero back from injuries their central defence will be tough to breach. A cleansheet for that pair against Holland is not unreasonable at 3/1.
In Diego Forlan they have a world-class player who is in form and not afraid of the big occasion – as his goals in the Europa League final show. He also seems to have a grip of this Jabulani ball and has the ability to score without the need for a realistic opportunity. Should he bang in a few more goals then a Uruguay for the World Cup and Forlan for the Golden Shoe double looks tempting at 33/1.
Holland’s result against Brazil was remarkable but a defensive mistake let them back into the game and their first half display was poor. No such errors will be forthcoming from Uruguay and should Tabarez target Holland’s key man Wesley Sneijder, they could nick a goal on the break.
Should Uruguay progress, it would only continue a World Cup abundant with shocks and, with Nicolas Lodeiro and Luis Suarez back from suspension they would prove a match for either Germany or Spain, who have both lost at this tournament already.
Germany thrived against the calamitous defences of England and Argentina, but struggled against the organisation and discipline of Serbia and Ghana, while Spain’s attack seems stilted and the team is still susceptible to the kind of game plan Switzerland emloyed.
If Uruguay can carry on their nine-match unbeaten run for two more games it would prove a fitting finale for a World Cup full of surprises.