Montevideo's mythical Estadio Centenario has provided the venue for some of the very greatest nights in Uruguayan football history: the Celeste's first FIFA World Cup™ triumph in 1930, epic victories in continental competition by Penarol and Nacional and even the 1995 Copa America title win.
In early 2004, however, the vast arena in the Uruguayan capital hosted what many consider to be the most catastrophic night in the history of Charrúa football. It was there, during the qualifying phase for Germany 2006, that coach Juan Carrasco's new-look Uruguay were taken apart by an up-and-coming Venezuela side under the guidance of Richard Paez. FIFA.com relives the events of a fateful evening now labelled the "Centenariazo", in a nod to the "Maracanazo" of Brazil 1950, when Uruguay shocked the hosts 2-1 to snatch the world title.
31 March 2004, Estadio Centenario, Montevideo, Uruguay.
Uruguay 0-3 Venezuela
Goals: Gabriel Urdaneta 19, Hector Gonzalez 67 and Juan Arango 77 (Venezuela)
Uruguay: Gustavo Munua; Diego Lopez, Gonzalo Sorondo, Dario Rodriguez; Martin Liguera, Marcelo Sosa, Richard Nunez, German Hornos (Walter Pandiani); Alvaro Recoba, Javier Chevanton (Fernando Correa), Diego Forlan (Carlos Bueno). (Coach: Juan Ramon Carrasco)
Venezuela: Gilberto Angelucci; Jose Vallenilla, Jose Manuel Rey, Alejandro Cichero, Joney Hernandez, Leopoldo Jimenez, Luis Vera, Ricardo Paez (Jorge Rojas); Juan Arango (Andree Gonzalez); Gabriel Urdaneta (Hector Gonzalez), Alexander Rondon. (Coach: Richard Paez)
After four rounds of the qualifying phase, Carrasco's Uruguay appeared ready to change the country's image as purveyors of dour, defensive football. The attack-minded strategist had guided his side to seven points from a possible 12, the team scoring an impressive 11 goals in the process. The Vinotinto were also in confident mood, however, and headed to the Centenario on the back of two consecutive wins including a 1-0 success on Colombian soil. That said, the record books were heavily in the Charrúas' favour, having beaten the Venezuelans by at least two goals in the sides' previous meetings in Montevideo.
In front of more than 40,000 spectators, Uruguay charged out of the blocks determined to overwhelm the Venezuelans from the off, only for Richard Paez' charges to draw the Celeste's sting with a measured, possession-based game. Having weathered their hosts' early storm, the Vinotinto struck first just before the 20-minute mark - Gabriel Urdaneta flashing a left-foot effort past Gustavo Munua from well outside the box. With the Centenario faithful in stunned silence, the home side threw caution to the wind in the hunt for an equaliser, with Alvaro Recoba and Dario Rodriguez both denied by the woodwork. Venezuela, meanwhile, stuck patiently to their game plan, looking to take advantage of the spaces Uruguay were leaving at the back.
The pattern continued in the second half, when the hosts' over-committment to attack cost them dear. Shortly after coming on as a substitute, Hector Gonzalez made it 2-0 to Venezuela with 23 minutes remaining after a superb break by forward Alexander Rondon. Ten minutes later Gonzalez tunred provider to create the killer third, setting up Juan Arango for a simple finish. Adding insult to injury for the Uruguayan players, down to ten men after Diego Lopez' second yellow card, the visitors' every touch was by this point met with ironic cheers from those home fans remaining.
Though the entire Venezuela side performed heroically that day, it was the arrival off the bench of Hector "El Turbo" Gonzalez that had the biggest impact on the outcome of the Centenariazo. Then plying his trade in Argentina for Colon of Santa Fe, the right midfielder with his distinctive bleached-blond hair and long stride grabbed a goal and an assist in undoubtedly one of the highlights of his national team career.
Gonzalez retired from international football in 2007 after 53 caps and 6 goals and currently plays for AEK Larnaca in Cyprus, the fourth country in a career that has also included spells in Venezuelan, Argentinian and Ecuadorian club football.
"That night against Venezuela was the first time in my life that I couldn't wait for a match to end. That night we undid years and years of history in that stadium, where it never used to be easy to win. It was a stain on the history of Uruguayan football," Juan Ramon Carrasco, Uruguay coach in 2004.
What happened next
Despite this goal-laden display, Venezuela's subsequent form dipped sharply and the team eventually finished ninth in the ten-team qualifying phase. Meanwhile, the defeat cost Uruguay supremo Carrasco his job, with Jorge Fossatiwho replacing him as coach.
The new man got the team's campaign back on track, leading them to a fifth-placed finish, though the Charrúa were subsequently undone by Australia in a play-off for Germany 2006. To date, Venezuela are the only South American team never to have qualified for a FIFA World Cup finals.