Alvaro Gonzalez may have been a substitute in Uruguay’s first match at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, but upon meeting him it is clear to see why coach Oscar Tabarez named him in the starting XI for La Celeste’s second Group D game against England. El Tata’s gestures, gaze, tone of voice and manner of speaking all convey a natural authority that is also evident every time he steps out on to the pitch, where his commitment, tactical discipline and will to win are also apparent.

Indeed, it was Tabarez who first called the midfielder into the national team in 2006, although he failed to make the cut for the 2010 finals despite being a regular in the squad. Yet after only playing a few minutes against Costa Rica it was a sign of Tabarez’s faith in the 29-year-old that he began the crucial fixture against England, starting his first-ever World Cup match in the process.

“It was very special,” Gonzalez told FIFA after his side’s 2-1 victory. “On a personal level it made me very happy that the coach put his trust in me and also that I was able to repay him for that. It made it all the more special to beat a team of England’s quality because that helped us regain our confidence just when we needed it. We’ve won one final but now we’ve got another one against Italy, who are just as used to playing in those kinds of games as we are.”

A matter of pride
Uruguay go into that decisive match at a disadvantage, as only victory will do for the South Americans to reach the Round of 16 alongside Costa Rica. “We know a draw is good enough for Italy,” said the Lazio midfielder. “But they’re coming into the game on the back of a defeat and I’m sure they’ll want to make up for it. On top of that, as well as having excellent individual players they’re very strong as a team. If they play as well as they can do it’ll be really difficult.”

Yet the 45-time international is keen to focus on the positives and outlines another reason why he believes Uruguay can be successful: “Our pride. We arrived in Brazil with high expectations given our performances in South Africa, at the Copa America and at the Confederations Cup. We should honour those achievements every time we step out on to the pitch.”

Pressed as to what La Celeste’s objectives are at the tournament, Gonzalez was unequivocal in his response. “We want to stay in Brazil as long as possible. Four years ago we played in the match for third place but now we’re aiming for the Final. That’s our dream and we don’t want to stop dreaming yet. If you dream and believe then that can push you to do great things. We believe we can make it.”