Knockout artists Uruguay dig in

As the USA and their bevy of stars arrive in Toronto as group-stage revelations, unimpressive Uruguay are limping into Wednesday's contest with a dirty little secret - they have never lost a Round of Sixteen clash at a FIFA U-20 World Cup finals. Even when stumbling into the second round historically, the South Americans have never gone out before the quarter-final stage, thrice reached the semis and once the tournament Final.

Uruguay will also be heartened by the fact that in four previous meetings at U-20 level, they have never lost to the USA. But up against a powerful, attack-minded American side in Toronto, the previously sluggish Charruas are hoping these historical statistics are worth something.

Hot start, limp finish
As most teams hope to get better and better with each passing game at a FIFA finals - starting at a simmer and then increasing to a rolling boil - Uruguay seem to have been going in the opposite direction.

In their first match with heavy favourites Spain, they stormed off the blocks with stunning precision, going 2-0 up through Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez and looking good for a few more. But they cracked as the time wore on, surrendering two in the last 20 minutes in what the players - seemingly to a man - called a bitter pill to swallow. Striking wizard Cavani said, "a result like this is tough on the whole team." Suarez added: "this result really hurts because we came so close."

The after-effects of the reversal lingered for the team. In their next game the Uruguayans struggled mightily to beat minnows Jordan before capitulating blandly against Zambia in their third group stage match (2-0) to barely sneak into the second round. The slump left them through to the next round as one of the best third-place teams and facing a significant test against one of the form teams of these Canadian finals. Freddy Adu's USA are getting better with every match - in an opposite trajectory to the Uruguayans who will be without first-choice keeper Mauro Goicoechea who was sent off against the Zambians.

But it is possible to peak too early. Players in the American side (like Adu and Danny Szetela) who lined up two years ago at Holland 2005 will remember a rip-roaring run through the group stages, followed by a shock defeat to group strugglers and third-place finishers Italy in the first knockout round.

New-world know-how
It was a bitter blow and one the Americans will be hoping to avoid, but Uruguay have experience and savvy to burn and the knockout games are typically different to those played in the round-robin format of a group.

"We know Uruguay have some really dangerous strikers and they can also keep a game really close," USA striker Josmer Altidore told FIFA.com. We'll just have to keep things tight at the back and keep playing our game and keep the ball moving."

Already lacking confidence, Uruguay won't be helped by the 3000-mile trip from their previous venue of Victoria on Vancouver Island, while the Americans faced just a relative road trip in from Ottawa. The US are also still buzzing from a historic run through their group stage, where they beat Brazil 2-1, saw three boys on three goals near the top of the scoring charts and played some of the hottest football at these finals.

However, as Uruguay and wily boss Gustavo Ferrin will know oh so well, the groups are over and the second round is a whole other proposition.