The road to New Zealand
In hosting the 2015 South American U-20 Championship, Uruguay had their sights set on something better than third place, though they did have the consolation of booking a place at New Zealand 2015. Despite losing to Venezuela in the final game in Group B, the Uruguayans still emerged section winners thanks to wins over Colombia, Brazil and Chile. They began the final six-team round in fine style, drawing against the Brazilians and seeing off Peru and Paraguay, though a subsequent draw with the Colombians and a defeat to Argentina denied them a title that they last won back in 1981.
Style and strengths
Boasting the best goalkeeper in the tournament in Gaston Guruceaga and an obdurate back-line protected by industrious midfield duo Mauro Arambarri and Nahitan Nandez, Uruguay proved a hard side to break down and let in a mere five goals in nine games – one of the meanest defensive records in the competition.
They carried no little threat at the other end of the pitch, with Arambarri, the playmaker Gaston Pereiro and centre-forward Franco Acosta scoring 12 goals between them, 80 percent of the team’s total. Also excelling in attack were wide midfielders Rodrigo Amaral and Fabian Castro, who each chipped in with four assists.
A defender back in his playing days, Fabian Coito joined the Uruguayan FA’s youth coaching set-up in 2007 and took charge of the U-15 side before steering the U-17s to the last two world finals in the age category. The 47-year-old was handed the reins of the U-20 side in 2014, stepping in to replace Juan Verzeri, the man who took La Celeste to the runners-up spot at Turkey two years ago. New Zealand 2015 will be Coito’s third consecutive FIFA world finals.
FIFA U-20 World Cup record
Uruguay are a force to be reckoned with at this level, with New Zealand 2015 set to be their 13th U-20 World Cup appearance in all and their fifth in a row. La Celeste featured prominently in the early editions, finishing fourth in 1977, third in 1979 and reaching the last eight in 1981 and 1983. They have twice finished runners-up since then, losing to Argentina in the final at Malaysia 1997 and to France at Turkey 2013.
What they said
“We achieved one of our objectives, which was to qualify for the World Cup. The other one was to win the tournament, but I’m happy with our performance and I can’t criticise the team at all. We have to raise our game because football is a sport and we need to give ourselves the weapons to win.”
Fabian Coito, Uruguay coach.