A flying left wing-back with an eye for goal, Alvaro Pereira of Porto and Uruguay is currently on the verge of fulfilling his greatest dream since turning professional: appearing at the finals of the FIFA World Cup™.
“I’m incredibly keen to play at the World Cup,” said the former Argentinos Juniors and FC Cluj defender, who was selected in coach Oscar ‘El Maestro’ Tabarez’s preliminary 26-man squad for South Africa 2010. “I finished the season well with Porto and I’m a step closer towards my dream of playing at the finals. Now I want to try and stay calm to avoid the usual stress you get at times like these.”
“We’ve got at least three games to make our mark,” he told FIFA.com, when quizzed on Uruguay’s chances of causing a stir at the global showpiece. “We’ve got to treat and enjoy each game as if it were our last, because at a competition like this making predictions and setting objectives doesn’t do you any good. Any team is capable of springing a surprise. Of course I hope its Uruguay’s turn to do that, but we have to stay calm and believe that things will turn out well for us.”
The first obstacle in Uruguay’s path are Group A rivals and 1998 world champions France, who also met La Celeste in the first phase of the 2002 event in Korea/Japan. At the finals eight years ago, the pair shared a goalless draw in their second group game and neither was able to progress to the Round of 16.
“We deserved to win that match,” said Pereira, who watched the game on television. “Maybe if we beat France this time around it would kick-off a great tournament for us,” added the defender, who believes fellow group rivals South Africa “will be determined to prove themselves in front of the home fans” and that Mexico “are the strongest side on the North American scene”.
Debut close call
For Pereira, however, the France game will have a particular resonance, given that his senior debut for his country came against Les Bleus in a November 2008 friendly in the Stade de France. Yet the left-sided wide player, then in Romanian football with Cluj, very nearly did not make the game “I was due to leave Bucharest at six in the morning, but all the flights were delayed by a huge snowfall and I was stuck in the airport for five hours.”
“I thought that my debut chance had gone, but I managed to get to France and on to the stadium just a few minutes before our pre-match training session. I had a real fright, but fortunately the match went well and I’ve been in the national squad ever since.”
We don’t want to be remembered for the world titles we’ve already won. We want people to remember what we did at this World Cup.
Boasting two world titles in their trophy cabinet, from the 1930 and 1950 showpieces, Pereira believes that the moment could have arrived for La Celeste to recapture some of their former glory. “Uruguay have had a huge part to play in the history of football, even though we’ve not won much in recent years. This will be the first time a lot of youngsters will have seen their country at a World Cup and that fills us with pride,” continued Pereira, touching on the failed bid to qualify for Germany 2006. “We don’t want to be remembered for the world titles we’ve already won. We want people to remember what we did at this World Cup.”
To achieve that aim, the Uruguayans will need all the tactical expertise of ‘El Maestro’ Tabarez, the strategist behind La Celeste’s run to the Round of 16 back at Italy 1990. “Above all else he’s a great coach,” said the Porto man. “He’s a great person too, he really takes an interest in the national-team players and always asks the European-based lads how things are going. He often calls us up to see how we are, to see if we’re feeling ok. That really helps.”
And having thoroughly enjoyed his first season in Portuguese football, during which he was one of Porto’s most-used players, he will also be following the fortunes of his current home nation. “Portugal have hugely talented players and I wish all the best to Carlos Queiroz’s team. It’s the country where I play my football and I’d be really happy if they had a great World Cup.”
“I’ll play anywhere,” Pereira said as the interview drew to a close, on whether he prefers his left-back role at Porto or his midfield berth with Uruguay. “I’m fortunate enough to be able to play in several positions, and I think that over the years I’ve learned to make the most of that and use it to keep improving my game. I’m often used in midfield for the national team and, when it comes to Uruguay, I’ll play wherever they need me.”