Despite producing a steady stream of world-famous players over the years, Uruguay have achieved very little at the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The only time they managed to advance beyond the group stage in their three previous appearances in the finals was at New Zealand 1999, when they went out in the quarter-finals to Ghana despite Ruben Olivera's inspirational performances. Having first qualified in 1991, Los Charrúas last rubbed shoulders with the world's best in the category four years ago. In view of that poor record, Nigeria 2009 represents the perfect opportunity for the Uruguayans to redeem themselves at U-17 level.
Coached by Roland Marcenaro, Uruguay secured their place at Nigeria 2009 after putting together a string of fine results in the opening group phase of the South American qualifying competition, held in Chile. Victors against Chile and Venezuela, they drew 1-1 with Ecuador and lost 2-0 to Argentina, performances that proved good enough for a place in the four-team play-off group comprising the second and third-placed teams in the two sections. And after kicking off with a 1-1 draw against the Bolivians, La Celeste recorded a 2-0 defeat of Colombia and a 3-1 victory over Ecuador to ensure their fourth appearance in the finals.
Uruguay's prime objective is to go farther than they have ever done before in the competition, which would equate to a place in the last four. Even so, such is the quality of Marcenaro's side that the fans and the country's football media are entertaining hopes of an even greater achievement. "We have a solid and intelligent team," commented the coach. "The players know what they want and we had luck on our side in the South American championship. If all those factors come together for us again, we will definitely put up a good fight in Nigeria." Uruguay's chances of impressing in Africa will depend to a large extent on the form of Danubio striker Gonzalo Barreto, the scorer of four goals in Chile.
Facts and figures
Ruben Olivera (1999) and Elias Figueroa (2005)
Sebastian Gallegos (midfielder), Adrian Luna (forward) and Gonzalo Barreto (forward)
In their seven qualifying games, Uruguay won four, drew two and lost one, scoring 11 goals and conceding six.
The numbers game
11 - The number of goals Uruguay scored in the South American qualifiers. The Celeste front line was among the most prolific in the competition behind Brazil, although they did play two games more than the continental champions.
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