Fernando Muslera will celebrate his 24th birthday on 16 June, the day Uruguay face hosts and Group A rivals South Africa in Tshwane/Pretoria, so a starting place between the posts and a win for La Celeste would be the ideal present.
A physically imposing figure, Muslera’s reliability and command of the penalty area have marked him out as a dependable goalkeeper from a young age, featuring prominently at U-17 and U-20 levels for Uruguay. He made his Primera Division debut at just 18 with Montevideo Wanderers, the club whose youth ranks he had risen through, where he remained until being snapped up by Nacional in 2006.
His performances for Nacional, particularly in the 2007 Copa Libertadores, boosted his profile to such an extent that it was no surprise when Serie A outfit Lazio signed him that same year. And though he initially struggled to nail down a starting berth, by early 2009 he had laid claim to the Roman side's No1 jersey and has held onto it ever since.
On the senior national team scene, in March 2009 Oscar Tabarez called him up for the South Africa 2010 qualifiers against Paraguay and Chile, although Muslera remained an unused substitute on both occasions. His opportunity soon arose however and he made his full international debut in the penultimate game of the campaign against Ecuador in Quito.
After helping La Celeste to a valuable 2-1 success at altitude, Tabarez kept faith in Muslera for the final qualifier against Argentina and for both legs of the crucial play-off tie versus Costa Rica. And on the evidence of those four games, he has shown he has what it takes to shoulder the responsibility of being Uruguay’s first-choice keeper.