The three giants of South American football, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay are the only teams from the continent to have won the FIFA World Cup™. It has been some time, however, since the Uruguayans ruled the world, La Celeste enduring several years in the international wilderness before finally restoring their prestige at South Africa 2010 and the Copa America the following year.
Their recent revival adds a little extra spice to what promises to be an intriguing encounter with a reinvigorated Brazil side, the first meeting between these old rivals since 2009.
These two sides have not faced off since the year before La Celeste made their stirring run to the semi-finals at South Africa 2010. One reason for that is that the Brazilians are sitting out the qualifying competition for next year’s world finals in their capacity as hosts. A second is A Seleção’s ill-fated campaign at the 2011 Copa America, where they were eliminated in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out by Paraguay, who went on to lose to Uruguay in the final.
The fact there have been no encounters between the sides in four years means that many of the players running out at the Mineirao on Wednesday will be facing each other for the first time in their international careers.
Interestingly, the two teams are at different stages of their development. The hosts have seen many changes in playing personnel in recent times, with the emergence of a clutch of players taking their first steps on the international stage, among them Neymar and Oscar.
In contrast, most of the big names in the Uruguay line-up are approaching the twilight of their careers, as Diego Lugano pointed out in a recent interview with FIFA.com, in which he discussed the problems they are having in the Brazil 2014 qualifiers.
“The most important game we’ve had this month was the one against Venezuela, no question," he said. "We had everything to lose, and if we’d lost we would have been out of the World Cup. And that would have been the end for this generation. There’s no doubt about that.”
2 - On 7 September 1965, Brazil and Uruguay played out the second match ever to be held at the Mineirao, which was A Seleção’s first at a stadium that had just been built. A friendly international, the game ended in a 3-0 win for the hosts. The new arena had received its official opening just two days earlier, when a representative Minas Gerais state XI beat River Plate 1-0 in another friendly.
“It’s Brazil-Uruguay and it’s a derby. Some people say it’s even worse than Brazil and Argentina. They’re full of confidence after winning the Copa America, and with Brazil having got the better of them in the last few meetings, they’ll be anxious to change things around. They’ll be up against a Seleção that has found itself and is playing some great football. I hope it goes Brazil’s way again but there are no favourites in this game,” Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
“It’s going to be tough. Brazil are a great side and they’re playing at home. It’s exciting to be taking them on because of their quality and the feeling they have for the game. It’s a privilege to be taking on the nation that’s won more World Cups than anyone. Let’s see what happens,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez.