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Uruguay perfect World Cup dark horses with Federico Valverde at the heart of their regeneration

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independent.co.uk

The original World Cup winners, and indeed hosts, Uruguay have been part of international folklore for as long as that version of the game has been around.Unlike some others from that part of the world, though, the story of La Celeste has not always been one of romance and achievement, of being giants and being admired, their names woven into World Cup fabric as often as they would have liked.The tenth-biggest nation in South America by population went from mythical to missing on the global stage in the space of less than three decades.Between 1978 and 1998 they qualified only twice and tasted victory only once.

It has been a long road back for the Sky Blue side, but a golden generation of players was overseen and developed by the legendary Oscar Tabarez and now, under the guidance of Diego Alonso, they are showing that a generational team doesn’t have to be restricted to a single generation.Uruguay are very much a force to reckoned with in Qatar at World Cup 2022, a team with players who know their roles, proven goalscorers and committed faces aplenty and, crucially, a handful of elite talents playing near the top of their game.It’s worth first, though, rewinding 20 years, back to 2002 and the South Korea and Japan finals.

That Uruguay squad had household names in it: Paolo Montero, Dario Silva, Alvaro Recoba and a relatively young Diego Forlan.

There was star power, technique aplenty with much of the squad based in Serie A or La Liga, yet little cohesion and ultimately no success, despite a close call beforehand at the Copa America.Yet again, they failed to win and exited at the group stage.

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