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Published on March 18th, 2018 | by David Kraakman

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Uruguay offers up fresh faces as World Cup challenge continues

As well calling up the old classics such as Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez, Uruguay’s coach is giving youth a chance ahead of Russia 2018

With each call-up, Uruguayans are beginning to develop more trust in the nation’s chances of a good World Cup this summer. For a while now, Uruguay coach, Óscar Tabárez, has kept hanging on to some aging and declining players, who had been great servants in the past. But over the past few months, the veteran manager has finally been rejuvenating the squad.

At first, several Uruguay U20 graduates like Federico Valverde were given a chance and now the biggest breakthrough has arrived as Lucas Torreira of Sampdoria has been included in the latest Uruguay squad that will travel to China to compete in the China Cup at the end of March where they will play the Czech Republic and potentially China or Wales.

Torreira has been playing at a consistently high level in Serie A and has developed into one of the best midfielders in Italy over the past 18 months. Fans started to recognize the talent of the 22-year-old, who personifies the Garra Charrúa fighting spirit and, unlike former Uruguay midfielders who also possessed that mentality, is actually an exceptional talent with the ball at his feet.

Torreira’s teammate at Sampdoria, Gastón Ramírez, was also called up by Tabárez although the 27-year-old playmaker won’t be a new face like Torreira, having represented Uruguay 41 times since his debut in 2010. Genoa wide midfielder Diego Laxalt returned to Tabárez’ final list as well after a few months of absence.

However, there also have been some players that weren’t fortunate enough to make the cut. Despite making the preliminary list, Mauricio Lemos (technical decision), Federico Valverde (injury), Jonathan Urretaviscaya (injury), Nicolás Lodeiro (injury) and Gastón Pereiro have all missed out.

Assessing the squad

There have been very few reasons to be excited about Uruguay squads over the last few years, apart from the two beasts up front. That’s not the case anymore, though, as more and more quality prospects have been coming through. In terms of balance, this squad is as good as anything in recent years.

The midfield, for example, has undergone a complete renewal. While Uruguayans at home or watching in the stands were always praying for some magic from Luis Suárez or the occasional flash from Edinson Cavani, there are now genuine top midfielders in the team who provide ball retention and quality in possession which makes life a lot easier for the front men.

Tabárez now has more game plans to consider instead of religiously going for a flat 4-4-2 with the sole purpose of reducing the opposition’s attacking threat and looking for a mistake to capitalize on. It’s a strategy with which Uruguay have survived, but at the end of the day, you need more than just that to make waves in Russia.

Certain periods in games require some initiative and this new look midfield gives solutions on that front. The attack and the defense, apart from some problems at the full-back positions, have never really been the problem, it has been the midfield in recent times. Now, that seems to be over.

This might not be the perfect squad yet, as someone like Federico Ricca (Malága) probably deserved a call-up, however, it is surely a group of players that satisfies. In the China Cup more will become clear of what certain members of this squad have to offer and Tabárez will be beginning to analyze who will board the plane to Russia and who stays at home.

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About the Author

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My name is David Kraakman and I passionately follow football in general and especially the Uruguayan national team, whom I also support. With my twitter account "UruguayanHeroes" I try to keep everybody interested in La Celeste up-to-date with all relevant information regarding Uruguayan football.



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