Uruguay
© AFP

The past
Uruguay have every right to consider themselves heavyweights at this level, with Turkey 2013 set to be the team's 12th trip to a FIFA U-20 World Cup and their fourth in a row. In fact, early in the competition’s history La Celeste were a constant presence in the latter stages: finishing fourth in 1977, third in 1979 and reaching the last eight in 1981 and 1983. However, in their fifth involvement at the tournament, back in 1991, they failed to progress from the group phase for the first time – a stumble they have since repeated at the 2011 edition. Their best display to date came at Malaysia 1997, when they went down to neighbours Argentina in the final.

The present
Under the steady hand of Juan Verzeri, who also guided Uruguay to the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011, Los Charrúas survived the first phase of the qualifying tournament unbeaten, though a record of one win and three draws meant they finished behind Group B winners Peru. Having conceded nine times in four first-round games, La Celeste shipped just three goals in five matches in the final phase, though they still required a 1-0 win over already-eliminated Ecuador in their last game to cement their passage to Turkey 2013. In addition to third spot on the regional podium, Uruguay also took the competition’s Fair Play prize and boasted the top scorer in six-goal striker Nicolas Lopez.

The future
“I’d highlight the way the squad responded during a gruelling tournament,” said coach Verzeri of his charges’ qualifying performance. “We managed to rotate the players and vary our approach from match to match and, even though we couldn’t get in the running for the title, we were very competitive during the final phase and really improved our defensive consistency. All of those things will help us at the World Cup,” he added.