- Uruguay reach the quarter-finals at Paraguay 2019
- Finished ahead of Tahiti and runners-up to Italy, whom they beat
- Captain Gaston Laduche on Japan: “It’s our World Cup final”
The last time Uruguay appeared at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, at Dubai 2009, Gaston Laduche was just 14. And contrary to what you might expect, he knew what beach soccer was all about at the time.
“Uruguayan people love their football, the team was playing well and we got to see the matches because they showed them on TV,” the young Charrúa captain told FIFA.com, minutes after his side had reached the quarter-finals at Paraguay 2019 despite losing to Tahiti.
“That generation was just too good,” he added. “They were World Cup runners-up and then third and fourth before we stopped qualifying,” he added. “Today’s generation has put us back in the spotlight.”
“I watched the players who are now our role models and who help us every day, like the coach [Miguel Aguirre Zabala] and Matias Cabrera, who’s still playing,” added Laduche.
It was one of the members of that generation, Sarandi Sobral, who suggested to him in 2016 that he try his hand at beach soccer.
“I’d been playing futsal for nearly two years when he told me they were holding trials and that he felt I was good enough,” explained Laduche, one of the revelations of Paraguay 2019. “I went along with him and fell in love with the sport there and then.”
Making the transition was not so easy, however: “There were a couple of times when I felt like not going back, but that was when the role models stepped up to explain to me that in this game you need to be determined, dedicated and professional, and that it’s down to you to go as far as you want to go.”
Laduche, who also helps his father out in the family business, took their advice on board and ended up playing in Europe this year. “It helped me get ready for the World Cup,” said the winger, who scored a goal in each of Uruguay’s three group matches at Paraguay 2019.
The captain came in for praise from his coach in an interview with FIFA.com and has had a learning curve that mirrors that of his team. Before travelling to Paraguay, the Uruguayans played three matches in a tournament in Qatar and lost the lot: to Russia, El Salvador and their next opponents Japan.
“If there was a time to make mistakes and put them right, then that was it,” said Laduche. “We’ve been working non-stop for the last two years, but in those three weeks we learned a lot from our rivals and from ourselves. We have our strengths.”
And what are those strengths? “To neutralise the opposition and attack directly and at pace from defence. It might not be the most exciting beach soccer you’ll see, and while we’ve got the ability to play an entertaining game we don’t have the experience to fully express ourselves.”
This is a team with plenty of the characteristics typically associated with Uruguayan football: “Attitude, self-sacrifice, team spirit and a belief in ourselves right till the end. Those are all a given. We were 5-1 down to Tahiti and heading out of the competition. It wasn’t looking good but we didn’t give up.”
Though happy to be through to the knockout phase, Laduche is not necessarily satisfied: “It’s great to be in the top eight, but Uruguay had never failed to get past the group phase before so we can’t be satisfied just with that. We’re taking it step by step. As far as we’re concerned, our next game is a World Cup final.”