A famous Argentinian boxer was fond of saying that "Experience is a comb life gives you when you're already bald." And while it may not be a perfect analogy for Uruguay's travails at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008, it is not far off either. No one could dispute that the Charrúas, with one of the youngest squads in the competition, gave everything in their opening Group D games against Libya and Czech Republic. Yet all they have to show for it is a solitary point.
"We never envisaged being in this situation. In our opening game we had numerous chances which we failed to take, and Libya then snatched a draw with an incredible late comeback. In our second match, against a team that were better than us on the day, inexperience cost us dearly as we allowed desperation to creep into our play when we shouldn't have," Celeste wide-player Juan Custodio tells FIFA.com.
So that Argentinian boxer was right then? "He might well have been. Unquestionably, we're learning the meaning of the word experience the hard way," says the 22-year-old. "None of the squad have played at a World Cup before, and many of the lads are still playing at U-20 level. As a learning experience, it's very good. What's not good, however, is learning while you're losing games, especially as we don't feel inferior to the Libyans or the Czechs. That's why we're left with a bitter taste in our mouth," the player adds.
For Custodio, Brazil 2008 has shown clearly where his country lies in the futsal hierarchy. "I'd say that today Uruguay are a third-tier side, well short of the top teams but also below the likes of Argentina, although the difference there is less pronounced." So how can the team develop? "Firstly the infrastructure of our domestic league needs to be improved. It's still hard for Uruguayan players to make it overseas, which is where you acquire a whole different type of experience," says the Nacional de Montevideo man.
Looking ahead to his team's final two Group D opponents, Custodio admits, "I'd never seen Iran play before and was surprised with their first-half performance against Spain. They are strong, organised, mark tightly and can hit you very quickly on the break." One encouraging statistic for Uruguay ahead of Tuesday's game is that they won 4-1 in both their previous encounters with Asian teams in this competition: against Malaysia in 1996 and Thailand in 2000.
The Celeste then complete their first-round games on Thursday against the defending champions, about whom Custodio says: "Spain still remain as powerful as ever, with only that first half against Iran coming as a surprise. I expected them to come back strongly, and they did. Now, they're once again playing like the great team that they are."
While Custodio accepts that the odds are stacked against the Celeste extending their stay in Brazil beyond this week, the player insists they are not throwing in the towel just yet. "Having to beat the top two teams in the group is a very tall order, but while we still have games to play, we can all dream of making it to the next round."