Very few football nations have a finer tradition than Uruguay.
The two FIFA World Cup triumphs - at home in 1930 and then famously
in Brazil in 1950 - were long ago now, but the Celeste have
competed in eight further finals. They also reached the semi-finals
in 1954 and 1970, and though they have reached the second round
twice since, they have hardly been inspirational. In fact, Uruguay
have won just one of their last 16 FIFA World Cup matches.
Their performance at Korea/Japan '02 was typical of their play over the past three decades -- it was skilled and eager but also strained. The offensive force of such players as Sebastian Abreu, Diego Forlan, Dario Silva and Alvaro Recoba was only seldom on show, though their wild three-goal second half comeback against Senegal was one of the highlights of the group stage.
That 3-3 draw against the African debutants remains their last match at the finals. In 2005, after finishing fifth in the South American Qualifying Zone for the second successive time, Jorge Fossati's Celeste were again paired with Australia in a play-off for Germany 2006. This time, however, there was to be no fairytale finish, with an inspired performance by Aussie keeper Mark Schwarzer in the ensuing penalty shoot-out sending his side through and the whole of Uruguay into despair.
Fossati's departure ushered in the return of Oscar Washington Tabarez, the coach at the helm when the national team qualified for Italy 1990. Tabarez got his first taste of competitive action (in his current tenure) at the Copa America Venezuela 2007, where his side came within a whisker of eliminating eventual winners Brazil in the teams' semi-final penalty shootout. The good impression left at the continental championship and the addition of new blood to compliment experienced campaigners like Diego Lugano, Pablo Garcia and Diego Forlan may not guarantee a successful qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010, but Uruguay are to sure to remain a difficult side to beat. However, their goal of qualification is a viable possibility, just as their illustrious history demands.