After criticisms of playing it too safe with the old guard, Uruguay boss Óscar Tabárez is starting to make room for some up and coming stars
Just two South American qualifiers remain to determine the fate of who will directly qualify for the World Cup next summer. Uruguay are currently second in the CONMEBOL standings, and with a trip to struggling Venezuela and a home game against last placed Bolivia still on the agenda, the country seems to be heading to Russia.
If La Celeste qualifies, manager Óscar Tabárez will have led Uruguay to three consecutive World Cups, a feat that hasn’t been achieved by any Uruguay manager since the sixties. It would underline how impressive Tabárez’ work has been both for the senior squad as well as the youth sides. However, one downside to El Maestro’s management lately has been his failure to rejuvenate the senior squad with some of the emerging young players.
OFFICIAL: Here is Uruguay's 27-man squad for the upcoming decisive #WCQ's.
Maxi Gómez and Rodrigo Bentancur rewarded w/ their first callup. pic.twitter.com/Oc8002nBIo
— Warriors of Uruguay (@UruguayanHeroes) September 28, 2017
It has made a lot of Uruguayans turn on him but with the World Cup around the corner, Tabárez is slowly but surely looking for the right mix of youth and experience. The call-ups of Federico Valverde (Deportivo La Coruna), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus) and Maximiliano Gómez (Celta de Vigo) are promising signs.
Still, there are some decisions that haven’t gone down well with me, personally. For example, the fact that Arévalo Rios – 35-years-of-age and simply not fit to play at a top international level – gets picked ahead of 21-year-old Lucas Torreira, who has been one of the most impressive players in Serie A for the past 12 months, is just not right.
Another omission that is strange, to say the least, is Diego Laxalt. The wing-back from Genoa plays week-in-week-out in Italy’s highest division and does well in most games. His energy, defensive discipline and attacking threat would be perfect in the left-midfield position that is currently occupied by Cristian Rodríguez.
The inclusions of Álvaro González, Mathías Corujo and Maximiliano Pereira have also been heavily criticized but the squad as it is composed right now deserves more positivity than it is currently getting. In comparison with a year ago, Tabárez has made some huge changes and, like I said, is clearly looking for the right mix of youth and experience.
It was that mix which delivered so much success back in 2010 when Uruguay reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in South Africa. They were beaten by the Dutch, but to come as far as they did was never expected as they traveled to Africa as the last team to qualify for the World Cup.
A team with experienced players like Diego Lugano, Diego Pérez and Diego Forlán combined with the youthful unpredictability of Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godín were the keys to success and Tabárez knows that it is still the case.
The overreliance on Luis Suárez when he is on the team sheet is a liability for Uruguay but with some young guns like Valverde now in the side, Tabárez has not just that one ace in the deck but has more options to hurt the opponent.