As a fan of La Celeste I'm in unknown territory a few days before the 2018 World Cup. This feeling is probably shared with many Uruguayos today, maybe apart from those who watched football before the 70's. The heroic performance in the 2010 World Cup and winning the Copa America a year later, strengthened the believe that La Celeste can achieve almost everything with the character and stability shown under the legendary Maestro Tabarez's guidance. This time the level of optimism is even higher and Uruguay is marked as the favorite team in Group A and more than usual is referred to as a team who will reach the final stages. I think it's because the current squad has more talent than the ones who did so great before. Alongside this new talent, Uruguay has more depth in the squad, and various options to mix formations and style of play.
The defence is tough as usual with Atletico Madrid's duo Godin and Josema Gimenez forming a formidable defence no striker would like to play against. The frontline is packed with heavy artillery as Suarez and Cavani leading the line and a backup from Stuani and young Maxi Gomez, both tired of scoring goals in La Liga this season. But a formidable defence and lethal strikers are not new for Uruguay in the last decade, although it's rare to see so many players in optimal conditions, so what has changed? Almost the entire midfield from the last World Cup has changed, with Cebolla Rodriguez the last survivor, and the new players to lead it are much more exciting talentwise. It's Bentancur, Torreira, De Arrascaeta, Nandez (my personal favorite), Laxalt (option for both fullback and winger roles), under the guidance of more experienced Vecino, that makes me believe Uruguay can achieve even more.
Yet, I'm a little bit concerned. maybe because I'm not use to this "favorite tag" or expectations to play "good" football and not only bring good results. Uruguay's greatest achievements in my lifetime weren't as a result of superior football as it was for character, toughness, togetherness. You can sum up it in one local term missing the ness ending, explaining the winning against all odds, the Garra Charrua. Most of the players in the squad were like el Ruso Perez rather Forlan. Now this is shifting and while mostly regarded as positive, I'm slightly worried that the talented youngsters will not be able to achieve what the former squad, with less talent but a lot of this Garra Charrua fighting spirit, achieved. Or maybe it's just me, wanting to be the underdog again and idealizing the past…
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