Cape Town - The twin talents of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will ensure that 2011
Copa America champions Uruguay have one of the most potent strike
forces at the World Cup finals.
But while the two-time World Cup winners are certain to cause problems
for Group D rivals Italy, England and Costa Rica, the South Americans
will be anxious to shore up a suspect defence.
The 2010 semifinalists leaked 25 goals during 16 qualifying games, where
the lack of pace of skipper Diego Lugano, 33, and his central defence
partner Diego Godin was frequently exposed.
The form of Lugano, who had a testing first season in England with
Premier League strugglers West Bromwich Albion, is of particular concern
for coach Oscar Tabarez, who will be loathe to drop his experienced
captain so close to the tournament.
Uruguay only scraped into the finals via a play-off victory over Asian
minnows Jordan, following a tense qualifying campaign which saw them
finish fifth in the South American standings.
Had it not been for the heroics of Suarez during the qualifying
campaign, Uruguay might even have struggled to reach the play-off.
Time and again the Liverpool striker rescued his country – most notably
with two goals in the crucial 2-1 victory over Peru in Lima last
September – and he finished the South American qualifiers as top scorer
with 11 goals.
Tabarez believes that Suarez, infamously sent off in the 2010 World Cup
quarterfinal against Ghana for a deliberate handball which denied the
Africans victory, has emerged a stronger player following the various
controversies which have disrupted his career.
Since the last World Cup he has served lengthy bans in England for
racially abusing Manchester United opponent Patrice Evra before then
being hit with a 10-game suspension last year for biting Chelsea
defender Branislav Ivanovic.
"He's come up through the Under-20s team and we introduced him to the
senior team in 2008," Tabarez told reporters during a get together of
World Cup coaches in Brazil earlier this year.
"Since then he's evolved a lot, both in terms of his game and his
competitive attitude. Maybe it's because of the problems he's had in
England. He's come through difficult times. He's got a strong head."
Suarez's international strike partner Cavani believes his teammate is in the perfect frame of mind for the World Cup.
"When I speak with him now, it sounds like a different man," the Paris
Saint-Germain striker said in February. "You can hear in his voice he is
As well as Cavani and Suarez, Tabarez has other attacking options, notably the midfield playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro.
The 25-year-old Botafogo player had a World Cup to forget in 2010, when
he was sent off against France in Uruguay's opening game, but has since
established himself as an important member of Tabarez's squad.