Coach Oscar Tabarez said on Thursday that victory for Uruguay in their quarter-final with Ghana will rank the current incarnation of La Celeste behind only their great FIFA World Cup™ champions. One-time football powers Uruguay won their two FIFA World Cups in 1930 and 1950 before Brazil and Argentina became the modern-day South American titans.
Uruguay's FIFA World Cup fortunes have been in decline since their shock 2-1 upset of Brazil in the 1950 Final in Rio de Janeiro and their last semi-final appearance was 40 years ago. Tabarez, known as the Maestro, has the Uruguayans on the cusp of returning to the big time after once dominating world football.
"If we win tomorrow the only sides that will have done more than us are the great World Cup champions," Tabarez told a pre-match press conference at Soccer City. "I think we are very much even with other nations and if we win tomorrow it will guarantee us fourth place. That's why tomorrow's match is extremely important for us from a historical point of view. But we mustn't think too much about what will happen after tomorrow. We have to think about the present."
Tabarez said Uruguay had the potential to become the surprise team of the tournament. "I hope we are going to be the surprise at this World Cup and should we move on to the semi-finals, I'm sure we would be the surprise team," he said. "Our historical background would make it quite unprecedented. There is a link between us and the other great teams."
If we win tomorrow the only sides that will have done more than us are the great World Cup champions.
Tabarez said there was no added pressure on the team's two star attackers, Ajax striker Luis Suarez and Atletico Madrid's Diego Forlan. "Those players have demonstrated very good potential, but they carry no special responsibility within the team," the coach said. "We want them to give their best. We have prepared well but we are not giving any particular player any special responsibility if we want to make our dreams come true."
Uruguay are one of four South American sides left in the last eight of the tournament, while Ghana are bidding to become the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup. "In World Cup matches, as you progress deeper into the tournament, the teams are increasingly even and it becomes more difficult to win," Tabarez said.
"Ghana have good potential, they are very fast and have good dribblers and although we have our expectations and our team is looking good, we have no guarantees. "Ghana are a country edging closer to elite football. They became the first African team to win the Under-20 World Cup last year and they have young players with experience.
"I think it's just a question of time. I think they will be continuing along this avenue and it's only their second World Cup appearance. They could yet become the first African country to play in the semi-finals."