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Uruguay: Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez is a front line to fear

Uruguay are one of only eight nations to ever win the World Cup - last winning the competition in 1950 - and their fans have high expectations this summer following impressive back-to-back displays in South Africa and Brazil.

They famously reached the semi-final in 2010 and, in 2014, progressed to the knockouts at England and Italy's expense.

However, Russia 2018 may be the last opportunity for some of their golden generation - Edinson Cavani and captain Luis Suarez will both be 35 by the time the 2022 World Cup in Qatar comes around.

The European based forwards are widely regarded as two of the finest attacking players on the planet - not many countries can boast Uruguay's level of firepower up front.

Uruguay’s World Cup squad

Goalkeepers: Muslera, M Silva, Campana

Defenders: Godin, Coates, Jose Maria Gimenez, Pereira, G Silva, Caceres, Varela

Midfielders: Nandez, Torreira, Vecino, Bentancur, C Sanchez, De Arrascaeta, Laxalt, C Rodriguez, Urretaviscaya

Forwards: Stuani, M Gomez, Cavani, L Suarez

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How did they qualify?

'La Celeste' finished ten points behind Brazil but secured their spot in Russia far more comfortably than the likes of Argentina and Colombia.

They started the three-year qualifying campaign brilliantly, winning seven of their first 11 games and thrashing both Colombia and Chile 3-0.

Uruguay's home record was excellent throughout, winning seven of their nine fixtures in Montevideo and holding Argentina to a 0-0 draw.

However, the attack-minded Uruguayans failed to secure their spot until the final matchday - although it would have taken an incredible set of results for them to miss out.

Chile and Alexis Sanchez ultimately came up short on goal difference after they were beaten 3-0 by Brazil in their final game.

PSG's all-time record goalscorer Cavani finished the qualifying campaign with 10 goals, three more than any other player - and five more than any other Uruguayan player.

The country, which borders Brazil and Argentina, only has a population of 3.4m people but the Uruguayans have now successfully qualified for each of the last three World Cups.

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Key men

Despite their small population, Uruguay boast some of the most talented footballers on the planet.

Cavani was the top scorer in qualifying but, previously, Suarez has been the man to deliver on the big stage.

The Barcelona frontman - who scored a memorable brace against England in Brazil 2014 - is Uruguay's all-time leading goalscorer with 50 goals.

Suarez has notched five goals in eight World Cup appearances, while Cavani has only managed two goals in his 10 World Cup appearances.

Despite delivering for his nation, Suarez's World Cup campaigns have been marred in controversy.
In 2014, he was handed a four-month ban from football for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini and, in 2010, he was suspended for their semi-final defeat to the Netherlands following a dramatic handball on the line against Ghana.

At the back, 32-year-old Diego Godin has earned a reputation as one of the finest centre-halves around during his eight-year stay at Atletico Madrid.

Godin has been capped 116 times by his country and is expected to make up a mean defensive pairing alongside fellow Atletico centre back Jose Gimenez.

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One to watch - Federico Valverde

Uruguay have an exciting new prospect on their hands, one who looks sure to be part of the national team for years to come.

On loan from Real Madrid at Deportivo, 20-year-old midfielder Federico Valverde enjoyed a dream debut for Uruguay in September 2017.

Oscar Tabarez handed the La Liga player a start against Paraguay in place of the suspended Alvaro Gonzalez - and he duly delivered a sublime performance.

At the age of just 19, Valverde commanded the midfield and scored a crucial goal in a 2-1 victory in Asuncion.

He's only won three caps for his country but he's since become a regular at Deportivo and his international teammates are already raving about him.

“Valverde is a phenomenon," said Luis Suarez after the youngster's stunning debut. "This is just another demonstration of the faith El Maestro has. He’s not scared to bring in players who are bang in form.”

The "phenomenon" could well be a starter in Russia.

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The manager

Known as 'El Maestro' (The Teacher), Oscar Tabarez brings a wealth of experience to Russia and commands incredible respect from his players.

He was formerly a schoolteacher and has 17 different managerial posts on his CV, including spells at footballing behemoths AC Milan and Boca Juniors.

There is no man better suited to the Uruguay job - Tabarez knows the national team inside-out having spent a total of 14 years in charge.

The 70-year-old coach took the reins between 1988-1990 and has been in charge since 2006, winning the South American Coach of the Year award in 2010 and 2011.

In 2011, Tabarez led Uruguay to their first Copa America win in 16 years and he's undoubtedly transformed them into a force to be reckoned with since they last failed to qualify for a World Cup in 2006.

World Cup 2018: The top 10 contenders

Potential route to the final

Hoping to reach a World Cup final for the first time since 1950, Uruguay are set to go head-to-head with Egypt in their first outing on June 15.

They are favourites to progress from Group A and will face Saudi Arabia in their second match before a tricky final group game against hosts Russia.

If Uruguay progress as expected, they will likely come up against either Spain or Portugal - unless Morocco or Iran can spring a surprise - in the Round of 16.

They will avoid the likes of Brazil, Germany and Belgium until the semi-finals but France and Argentina will be potential quarter-final opponents.

Uruguay's 2014 conquerors, Colombia, are also in the other side of the draw.

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Expert opinion

Jack Lang, South American football writer

"The centre of defence and the attack have long been sources of strength, but the really encouraging thing for Uruguay over the last year has been the emergence of a new generation of midfielders.

"Juventus’ Rodrigo Bentancur is the most recognisable name, but Federico Valverde is also a real talent, while the pint-sized Lucas Torreira was rewarded for a breakthrough season at Sampdoria with his first senior call-up in the March friendlies.

"Throw in the mercurial Giorgian De Arrascaeta, who plays for Cruzeiro in Brazil, and you have a cluster of players taking some of the burden off the shoulders of Cavani, Suarez and Godin – should Tabarez be brave enough to play them."

Odds

William Hill have made Uruguay big outsiders to win the whole thing and you can back them for glory in Russia at 25/1*.

Suarez and Cavani can both be backed as top goalscorer at 20/1* while Uruguay are 7/1 to be the last South American team standing.*

*Please note that these odds are correct at time of publishing and could be subject to change.

**GiveMeSport brings you this article in collaboration with William Hill

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