Uruguay made sure of first place in Group A with a 1-0 defeat of Mexico on Tuesday afternoon. The victory was their second of the group, with La Celeste keeping a clean sheet in all three of their games and scoring four, an indication that they pack plenty of punch at both ends of the pitch.
“They have shown everyone how powerful they are in defence,” Mexico forward Giovani dos Santos told FIFA exclusively after a frustrating afternoon’s work. “They are very solid, compact and strong at the back.”
Even without the injured Diego Godin, one of the cornerstones of the Charrúa rearguard, Oscar Tabarez’s side turned in another hugely impressive display of defending, calmly dealing with whatever El Tricolor could throw at them. “Defensively we hardly put a foot wrong,” said Uruguay central defender Mauricio Victorino. “We’ve been performing like that for a few games now.”
So strong was the Uruguayan rearguard in fact that goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had a relatively quiet 90 minutes, only being called upon on a couple of occasions. “We knew they had a strong back-line,” acknowledged Mexico full-back Carlos Salcido, who was unable to embark on his trademark runs up the flank.
The last time the South Americans checked into the second stage was at the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™. A glance through the competition’s annals also reveals that when they became world champions at Uruguay 1930 and Brazil 1950 they did so without letting in a single goal in the group phase.
Could that be an omen for the men in sky blue? “Let’s hope so. It would be nice to keep that record going,” replied the beaming Victorino. “It would be great if we can carry it on,” added their inspirational captain Diego Lugano.
And according to coach Tabarez, that ability to score goals and thwart their opponents at the other end makes them dangerous rivals for anyone.
His counterpart for the day Javier Aguirre concurred. “It’s very tough to play against teams like Uruguay,” he said, recognising his side had been second-best. “Defence is important, don’t get me wrong, but we also have some very able and clever players up front,” added Tabarez, having the last word on a highly encouraging day for his side. Four more of them and they could well recreate the distant golden days of Uruguayan football.