The Plan | Uruguay will arrive in Qatar with a developing team and a squad divided between older players and debutants. For Fernando Muslera, Diego Godín, Martín Cáceres, Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani it will be a fourth World Cup. For Sergio Rochet, Mathías Olivera, Federico Valverde, Nicolás de la Cruz, Facundo Pellistri and Darwin Núñez, all starters, it will be their first, while Rodrigo Bentancur debuted at the age of 19 in 2018. In this context, Uruguay generate excitement and uncertainty at the same time but they have the ability to surprise the world in Qatar although it’s likely they’ll need more time to truly find themselves.
However, coach Diego Alonso said in May that Uruguay head to Qatar with the aim of becoming world champions: “The players and I want to be world champions. We want to go win. If you want to win, you have to prepare to win. We are a team that has a lot of hope. We believe in ourselves. I believe a lot in our players.” Without a doubt they can reach the sharp end of the tournament. At this point in the season, the individual performances of key figures allow the team to believe big. However, Alonso has only had nine games in charge, but in a short time he’s generated a change in the structure of the team and its game. A recent 4-4-2 should be used in the first game against South Korea but he suffered a setback due to the injury of Ronald Araujo.
The Coach | Diego Alonso quickly built successful career over five years in Mexican football (2014-2019) before David Beckham signed him to coach Inter Miami in 2020. He knows how to convey his ideas to the players and is a great motivator. He likes his teams to impose themselves on the game and keep the ball while his system can vary between a 4-4-2 and 4-3-3. He likes to press the opponents and take advantage of mistakes as part of an intense game while using midfielders or forwards with a lot of speed and who excel in one-on-ones. The most obvious example of this is Facundo Pellistri, who was included in his first squad in January and made his debut as a starter despite not starting at Alavés in Spain.
Star Player | Federico Valverde’s performances at Real Madrid of late have transformed him into the key figure of the national team. Uruguay relies on his talent and scoring ability to build an effective game and, on form, he’s arguably one of the best players in the world. He’s understood that role and handles the pressure well.
Unsung Hero | Tottenham’s Rodrigo Bentancur is the soul of this team and it’s silent leader with the charisma of a winner. He’s often used by Alonso in double pivot as he gives the national team’s midfield an x-factor as Valverde’s partner – this is a journey the pair have shared since youth level.
Probable Line-up | 4-4-2, Sergio Rochet; Damián Suárez, José María Giménez, Sebastián Coates, Mathías Olivera; Federico Valverde, Mathías Vecino, Rodrigo Bentancur, Nicolás de la Cruz; Luis Suárez y Darwin Núñez