Publish date:

24 URUGUAY

Author:

Because ...

THEY PACK A PUNCH

THIS IS THE Mike Tyson of South American fútbol, and not just because of scandalous striker Luis Suárez, who was red-carded at South Africa 2010 for an intentional handball and banned at Brazil '14 for biting an opponent. Óscar Tabárez, the longest-tenured national coach in Russia '18, is content to keep his guard up, relying on the central wall from Atlético Madrid: Diego Godin (who's been here before) and José Giménez (who'll be here again; he's a stud). But given the slightest opening, La Celeste will punch back with big, brazen swings. Suárez is the left glove; Edinson Cavani is the right. Tyson famously said, "I just want to conquer people and their souls," and Uruguay can give that impression when their counter is working, as it did in three-goal whippings of Colombia and Chile in qualifiers. (Comparatively, Group A's Russia and Saudi Arabia are Peter McNeeleys.) Tabárez has revamped his midfield with the likes of Juventus's Rodrigo Bentancur, but his team otherwise has a larger-than-usual core of returning (but not yet over-the-hill) stars from the semifinal team of '10. You can almost hear them echoing another Tyson proclamation: "As long as we persevere and endure, we can get anything we want."