Uruguay

Two of the previous three World Cups saw Uruguay as South America’s strongest team statistically, a stunning turnaround from a small nation that had seemed to accept mediocrity.

For this, former coach Oscar Tabarez, who was particularly effective in directing the work at the under-20 level, is mainly responsible. He was persuaded to stay for Qatar 2022 because of the presence of legendary forwards Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, as well as the development of talented young midfielders.

However, something went awry along the road. After a string of embarrassing defeats and an unfavorable run of games, the team’s longtime coach was fired after more than 15 years in charge. When Diego Alonso was brought in for the final four rounds, the Uruguayans started winning again to secure their spot in the World Cup and remind everyone that they are still capable of producing results.

TACTICS

Alonso’s team has to be built up, both in terms of people (how many veterans should there be?) and strategy, but major choices have yet to be made (whether to mark high or sit deep). They have the flexibility to switch to a back three at any time throughout a game.

Alonso was a former international striker who had been coaching in the Americas for a decade when the call came.

READY TO SHINE

Federico Valverde

Cavani and Suarez both have a lot to give, but it appears that only one will be selected in the final lineup.

Midfielder Valverde has quietly established himself as the team’s most important player.