Uruguay's young team, Israel's opponent in Thursday's semifinals, has an impressive history at the World Cup. She reached the finals twice, in 1997 and 2013, but lost both times.
In the final held 26 years ago in Malaysia, Argentina beat the Celeste 1-2 in the final, and 10 years ago it was Paul Pogba's France who beat Uruguay in a penalty shootout.
The team that reached the World Cup almost won the South American championship. A draw in their last match against Brazil would have given them the title, having won all four of their first games in the final. But they lost 2-0 and settled for runners-up.
The star of the tournament was 18-year-old striker Alvaro Rodríguez. But just as Israel arrived in Argentina without Oscar Gloch, Uruguay reached the semi-finals without the Real Madrid striker, whose first goal came in a derby against Atletico Madrid in February.
Uruguay beat the United States 0-2 and will meet Israel in the semi-finals, Photo: AP
But even without him, coach Marcelo Broly has an excellent team, which is characterized by organization, tactical discipline and, of course, fighting spirit, in the tradition of the Gara Cherua. That was evident last night in the quarterfinals against the United States, who had scored 10 goals in their previous four games. The U.S. didn't get into any situation against the terrific Uruguayan defense.
Coach Broly has rarely made any changes since the start of the tournament. Seven of the 11 started all five games, including the entire defensive squad: goalkeeper Randall Rodriguez, defenders Sebastian Boselli and Facundo González, right back Matteo Fonte and 18-year-old left back Alain Maturo.
Although Uruguay have scored 11 goals in their five games, the defence is their strongest part. In fact, she hasn't conceded in four of her five games.
Boselli and González take almost every ball wide, whether in the air or on the ground, continuing the legacy of Diego Lugano, Diego Godin and José María Jiménez.
Boselli is due to sign immediately after the tournament with Argentine club River Plate. Enzo Francescoli, the former Uruguayan star and now one of River's chiefs, met this week with Pablo Boselli, the father and agent of the 19-year-old defender, and reached agreements with him.
Anderson Duarte. Scored the first goal against the USA, Photo: Reuters
By the way, with the exception of Mattoro (Genoa) and Facundo González (Valencia), all the other players in the squad play in the Uruguayan league. Captain and midfielder Fabricio Diaz has been included in Uruguay's extended squad for the World Cup in Qatar. He is, of course, a bunker in the lineup, like attacking midfielder Franco González.
To them must be added striker Luciano Rodríguez, who did not play against the USA because he was sent off in the eighth final against Gambia. But Luciano is due to return to the lineup against Israel, and he is a great striker, who scored 10 goals for the national team.
Juan de los Santos started the last three games and against the USA was one of the outstanding players, scoring the first goal. He plays on the left, very fast and Ilai Feingold has a difficult task ahead of him to stop.
The one most likely to play alongside Luciano Rodríguez is Anderson Duarte, who scored the first goal against the USA.
Uruguay celebrates against the U.S. dreams of winning the World Cup again, Photo: AP
By the way, Marcelo Bielsa, the new coach of the Uruguay national team, called up no less than seven players from this team for the upcoming friendly matches against Nicaragua and Cuba: goalkeeper Rodríguez, Ponte, Boselli, Facundo González, Diaz, Luciano Rodríguez and Duarte.
Unlike Brazil, which came in a bit arrogant against Israel, Uruguay will approach the semifinals with a completely different approach.
First, after Israel beat Brazil, everyone already understands that this is an excellent team. And secondly, Uruguay has never won a World Cup, and after its two biggest South American rivals were eliminated, the Celeste players feel they are on their way to making history.
And no one in the small country, only 3.12 million people, forgets that Uruguay's last title win was on Argentine soil. That was <> years ago when Celeste won the Copa America.
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By the way, in the semifinals, Uruguay beat Peru 0:2. And why is it important to note this? Uruguay's semi-final against Israel on Thursday will take place at the same stadium, in La Plata
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