- He was born in Buenos Aires while Argentina were playing Uruguay
- He is named after a Uruguayan footballer
- On the forthcoming clash with Argentina: “It’ll be a hard-fought match”
Uruguay’s first-choice goalkeeper could well have been named Pedro Pablo Muslera. Indeed, he would have been, had his mother Norma followed the suggestion made by the obstetrician who delivered him.
And all because of an Argentinian footballer.
Muslera was born in Buenos Aires on 16 June 1986. He was delivered, so the story goes, just minutes after Pedro Pablo Pasculli scored the winning goal for Argentina against Uruguay, thus securing La Albiceleste’s* *qualification for the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup™ in Mexico.
“That’s the story that my mother told me when I grew up,” Muslera explained to FIFA.com. “Without realising they were Uruguayan, the midwife said to her: ‘Given how stressful both the birth and the match have been, I guess you’ll call him Pedro Pablo'. Of course, it was totally out of the question!” he chuckled.
“What’s more, they’d already decided to call me Fernando, mainly because my mum was a big fan of the Uruguayan striker Fernando Morena. In other words, I was named after a footballer, just one from the other side of the Rio de la Plata!” he added.
According to Fernando, however, this is where story ends. “I’ve never met the doctor. And until you mentioned it just now, it had never even occurred to me to watch that match from 1986, to really get into the moment.”
Any affiliation with Argentina also abruptly ends there. “Eight months later, we returned to Uruguay, obviously unaware of what would happen to me later in life. With all due respect, my passport says that I have Argentinian nationality, but I feel one hundred per cent Uruguayan.”
*“Three crucial points” *On Thursday, Uruguay will take on Argentina in the latest round of South American qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. For obvious reasons, every match against La Albiceleste is particularly special for Muslera. “It’s a historic rivalry, one that inspires so many people. It gets the adrenaline running, just thinking about what the Estadio Centenario will be like on the night.
“What’s more, we’ll be playing for three crucial points against one of our nearest rivals. Back in the day, 24 or 25 points was enough to qualify for the World Cup. But now, the table is much tighter and that’s not enough. It’ll be a hard-fought match.”
Above all because Uruguay, who were seemingly coasting to qualification, have since contrived to lose their last three matches. “Every team has good spells, and periods where things don’t go so well. Here’s hoping that we’ve put that bad patch behind us, and that we secure qualification as soon as possible.”
How is the team’s confidence? “Intact. We’ve got the players and the experience for when it comes to the crunch.”
Nonetheless, he admits that the spectre of a fifth consecutive World Cup qualification play-off still looms large. “You never want to be in a play-off but, if it gets us to the World Cup, then I won’t be complaining. Given all the hard work that we’ve put in, we’d be really proud to qualify automatically.”
Muslera with gloves at the ready...
- *Would you ever play out on pitch? *“No, even though it’s tough to go from hero to villain in a second. But once I did get to be the hero for Uruguay, and it was amazing.”
- *Have you ever dreamed of scoring a goal? *“Yes, and I actually had the pleasure of scoring one in Turkey, from a penalty. But I want to score a header, one of those late equalisers when goalkeepers go up for a set-piece.”
- You’re in the Estadio Centenario, losing one-nil to Argentina. It’s the 93rd minute, the cross comes in... “Hopefully, it’s coming in from the right wing, that’s my better side! It’d be incredible. I’m not used to celebrating my own goals. I think I’d just run off uncontrollably!”
Muslera in numbers
377 Muslera holds the record for the longest consecutive run by a Uruguayan goalkeeper without conceding a goal in FIFA World Cup matches, with 377 minutes. He set the record, previously held by the great Ladislao Mazurkiewicz, at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
90 The number of international caps won by Muslera, more than any other goalkeeper in Uruguay’s history.
1 Muslera has won one international trophy with Uruguay: the 2011 Copa America in Argentina. The goalkeeper starred in a quarter-final penalty shoot-out against the country of his birth, saving from Carlos Tevez.