- Lucas Torreira was a key man in Uruguay’s midfield versus Russia and Portugal
- He only made his international debut four months ago
- The diminutive 22-year-old has worked his way into Oscar Tabarez’s plans
By Florencia Simoes with Uruguay
For many football observers, he was an unknown quantity, but Lucas Torreira, nicknamed 'the Dwarf' for his short stature, has thoroughly altered that status with the battling qualities and vision he has so far displayed at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. After dominating the middle of the park during Uruguay’s Round of 16 clash with Portugal, he is now faced with an even greater challenge: keeping France’s collection of superstars – Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Co – at bay.
Torreira’s style of play made him the perfect fit at just the right time when Oscar Tabarez, coach of La Celeste, was on the lookout for a new lynchpin in the midfield engine room. “I’d describe myself as quick, strong in the challenge and able to deliver accurate passes from deep,” the Sampdoria player told FIFA.com. “I like getting the ball to feet.” Against Portugal, he demonstrated various aspects of his strong all-round game, covering almost 11,000 metres, making four crucial clearances, four blocking challenges and two key interceptions.
Despite this level of effectiveness, the defensive midfielder’s international career is still in its infancy. In 2017, following some strong performances at club level in Italy's Serie A, there were already calls from the Uruguayan public and media for him to be called up to the national squad, but it was not until March of this year, during the China Cup, that he donned the famous light blue jersey for the first time.
It was there, and in subsequent friendlies, that Torreira secured his spot in Tabarez’s 23-man squad. A substitute in the Egypt and Saudi Arabia group matches, he impressed over 90 minutes versus Russia, earning himself a berth in the starting XI that faced Portugal in the Round of 16. “He offers us solutions that match with the type of game we’re trying to play,” said Tabarez.
Torreira has been unable to hide the emotions brought on by playing on football’s greatest stage, a fantasy that was unthinkable for him just five months ago. “I had always dreamed of pulling on my country’s jersey, and when the opportunity arose, I was so excited when I realised I’d be going to Russia,” he explained. “For me, it’s the absolute summit, and I’m very happy with my performances here.”
The Torreira trajectory
- At just 16 years of age, he left his hometown, Fray Bentos, to try his luck in Montevideo
- He joined Montevideo Wanderers’ youth team, where he played as a wide midfielder, despite being more accustomed to playing in the middle or as a withdrawn striker
- The following year, in January 2015, he signed for Italian outfit Pescara
- His coach at the time, Massimo Oddo, moved him back into central midfield. “If not, you’ll never play any higher than Serie C level,” the Italian is reported to have said.
- In July 2015, he signed for Sampdoria, but he returned to Pescara on loan for the 2015/16 season
- He made his debut for Uruguay on 23 March 2018 in a friendly against Czech Republic
Full focus on France
The next challenge on the agenda is a much-anticipated quarter-final with France, a match that could allow Torreira and his team-mates to, in the words of Diego Godin, “boost Uruguay’s dreams of achieving the objective that we all want so much.”
The fast-improving 22-year-old is aware of how difficult taming one of the competition’s most explosive frontlines is likely to be, but he has no intention of shrinking from the task in hand. “It’s going to be a very tight match,” he said. “They have some big players, especially in the final third, with a lot of pace that they can use to take advantage of any space we give them. We’ll take a good look at their strengths and weaknesses, so that we can do them damage with our own offensive weapons.”
(Great determination shown by the entire team. I’m happy and proud!!!)