After all the excitement of the international break and the return of club football, we have all had a chance to let the 4 points that Uruguay has earned sink in. 3 points at home against bottom of the table Venezuela and the ever so precious away point in Barranquilla. Some good business for La Celeste as the door to Russia gets a little closer…
Uruguay in the Centenario have been perfect so far in the qualifiers, and have been for some time you have to go back to March 2013 against Paraguay for the last time Uruguay dropped points at home in world cup qualifying, since then it’s been smooth sailing at home. Not a single team has been able to score in the Centenario so far in qualifying and it sure looked like Venezuela’s Adalberto Peñaranda was going to break that run until he put his effort in front of an empty goal wide of the left post. Uruguay were pinned back by Venezuela in the first quarter of the match as Venezuela missed chance after chance. Flashbacks of the Copa America started to come back to haunt me. However later in the first half, it was Lodeiro of all people who erupted the stadium into joy. Uruguay’s worst player in the first quarter gave them the lead with a diving header off another Suarez cross. Uruguay would go on to dominate the rest of the game and 2 more goals from Cavani would make it a 3-0 win and 3 points. In Colombia, Uruguay went back to their default away setting against a strong team, where Tabarez sets up a 4-4-2 which evolves into the defensive 4-5-1 with Cavani pushed back into a defensive role leaving Suarez to fight for the scraps on his own. Uruguay fought well and held their ground against a good Colombian side, to take a point in Barranquilla. Cebolla Rodriguez proved his critics wrong and played a terrific game scoring a goal and showing why he still deserves to be around. Uruguay was lucky in the regard that the rainfall eliminated some of the heat. Some may say we should’ve won the game but most will be happy with the point.
Some things to note after the two games….
How long can Arevalo Rios continue to hold our midfield? Arevalo Rios continues to give us his all in a Celeste jersey but he is on the decline, and Uruguay will need to freshen up the center of the midfield. Vecino is a good start from Tabarez but there’s no way he can keep Arevalo Rios the main center piece of the midfield until Russia! Or will we see him fade away like Diego Perez he did before Brazil 2014. Keep in mind that Alvaro “Tata” Gonzalez wasn’t even called up for the two games and provides us with another option.
Suarez continues to light up the attack. There’s nothing better then seeing Suarez do what he does best. Suarez was once again amazing. Just look back at the highlights, Suarez is involved in almost everything delivering pass after pass fighting for everything Uruguay throws at him. Uruguay with Suarez is a different proposition and we all know that.
Coates has improved. In the absence of Gimenez, Sebastian Coates has come in and done a pretty good job. Coates has not only impressed for Uruguay but has done well for his club Sporting, scoring a couple goals recently and impressing in the league and Champions League. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets the nod ahead of Gimenez in November with his fine form of late.
What about our fullbacks? After Caceres’s disappearance because of injury, we’ve been left with Gaston Silva who is a decent defender but is limited when offering something in the attack for Uruguay. Gaston is naturally a center back who has been also played out wide at former club Torino. While Alvaro Pereira who replaced Gaston Silva because of injury is a mixed bag, cause you really never know what your going to get from him, against Colombia he played a good role, getting back in time to deny to provide the tackle of the game denying Colombia a breakaway. The right back position seems to be alright with Maxi Pereira who is solid and Corujo proving to be not that bad of a replacement. Does the return of Maxi Pereira mean Corujo moves into the midfield alongside Arevalo forming a double pivot like against Argentina… only time will tell? Lots of questions, but with Uruguay it’s always unpredictable and more questions will be raised in November as we host Ecuador and then travel to Santiago to play the “Bi-Campeones de America” Chile.
Time for Some Math
Let’s do some math and see where we are at in terms of qualifying to Brazil. Yes, that’s right for the first time we are going to calculate how Uruguay can not screw this up rather then how we can somehow squeeze our way in… No team has ever not qualified to the world cup after getting 20 points at this point which is a positive sign. We sit second in the table with 20 points and some tricky fixtures waiting for us, such as Chile away, Peru away and Argentina and Brazil at home. I’ve broken up the calculations into three categories…
Best Case Scenario:
Finish with 42-44 points, this would include wins at home to Argentina and Brazil and the away win in Santiago against Chile.
Worst Case Scenario:
Finish with 28-32 points, this would include only getting 8-12 points from our last 8 games. This would mean losing away to Chile, away to Peru, and away to Paraguay, while losing at home to Brazil and at most picking up a point at home against Argentina.
Most Likely to happen if we continue at this rate:
36-38 points, this would include sharing a point with Chile away, winning at home against Brazil but drawing Argentina at home or the other way around.
In total, it would take a complete meltdown for Uruguay not to make Russia 2018, at this point it’s safe to say that anywhere above 29 points will ensure direct qualification for Uruguay that means only 9 more points to go with 8 games to play, a healthy position to be in especially for Uruguay. There are endless possibilities to this unrepeatable waylaying campaign. It also looks like it’s going to be a tight and interesting race for the 4th and 5th places, with Ecuador, Paraguay, Chile and even Argentina being thrown into that fight. Below is a link to a simulator where we can all work out and simulate possible results for the remainder of the qualifying campaign.
My Experience in Uruguay
On a personal note It was quite a special round of qualifying for me personally because for the first time ever I got to experience La Celeste up close and personal in the Centenario. My family went down to Uruguay for a one-week vacation and bought tickets to the Venezuela match. The experience was breathtaking, standing there soaking in the wonderful atmosphere and the packed stadium. It was truly an experience I will never forget complemented with a great game and result for Uruguay.
A day earlier, me and my family visited the Complejo Celeste in hopes of seeing someone or getting a glimpse of the practice, there was nobody there when we arrived and we asked the guard who was very hesitant to give us any information about the practice but only said that they would be practicing in the afternoon. I left a little disappointed not being able to see anybody but as I walked away I saw Tabarez’s right hand man, Celso Otero taking a walk around the field in the morning. I pounced on the opportunity and my parents and I ran over to introduce ourselves and asked if it was possible we could see some of the players. The whole conversation was separated by the front fence to the from field in the complejo. Celso reacted angrily saying that the players do not want any fan disturbances before such a crucial game. I felt kind of embarrassed realizing that what he said was true. We told him we came all the way from Canada for the game and walked away, in that moment Celso walked over to the guard told him to get our phone numbers and names and that the Complejo would contact us when the best time would be to come and get a view of La Celeste. I guess he kind of felt bad for us or something but I didn’t care I was overwhelmed! A day later the game would go by, we would all celebrate and by the time I got back to where I was staying, everybody crashed after an exhausting experience at the game. However falling asleep would prove a mistake because, me and my family woke up the following afternoon at 1:00 and woke up to a missed WhatsApp message from the man himself… Celso Otero who personally invited us inside the Complejo Celeste at 11:00 in the morning to have a meet and greet with the players, the chance was gone. Had we checked our phone that night we got home from the game we would have seen the message. I was devastated at the missed opportunity. In this roller coaster of emotions, I decided to give it another shot by showing up to the Complejo on Saturday for Uruguay’s final practice before embarking to Colombia. I waited with my father outside the Complejo for hours hoping to see any players coming in, we got lucky and some cars stopped for the few fans outside the complejo including Muslera, Arevalo Rios, Gaston Silva, Ricca, Laxalt, Rolan, Sanchez, Vecino, Loderio, Corujo and the best of all Suarez!
If that was lucky then I hit the lottery soon after when Celso Otero gave us another chance, and again invited us personally inside the Complejo Celeste to watch the practice and see everyone! I already met most of the team outside the complejo, now I was able to actually go inside watch them practice and meet them up close and personal, I couldn’t believe it. There you have it, one of the best days of my life. I drove inside through the security at the Complejo feeling like a true VIP, my father parked right beside Luis Suarez’s car and my family and I got off to watch the practice. The only other people that were there other than us, were kids from the two schools that the national team funds in Rivera. I watched the practice up close and enjoyed viewing every detail. Suarez was so into the practice and his competitive attitude could be felt from a distance while Cavani seemed serious and wasn’t very friendly he and Coates were the only players to not meet and greet with the fans, they went straight inside the complejo following the practice. Suarez was a nice person with a strong personalty, don’t make him mad otherwise he’ll leave, as he left the fans early after a women almost jumped on top of him and complained, Suarez replied”If I signed every shirt and took every picture I’d be here all day, I’m sorry but I have to go.” Suarez is like you seem him on TV he is playful and competitive with his teammates in practice and seeing him up close not only once but twice is something I’ll never forget. I’m sure he recognized me from outside the complejo and wondered how the hell I was able to get in! Cebolla Rodriguez approached me and was friendly taking a picture and signing my jersey and even claiming that he will be back in Uruguay to play for Penarol in 8 months. One of the best moments was when Diego Godin grabbed me by the shoulder to have a conversation and ask how I was doing, it was small talk and I told him how much I looked up to him being a center back and sometimes captain myself, Godin took some pictures and signed my jersey. After taking pictures with most of the players, I was able to catch Tabarez riding away into the complejo and jumped on the opportunity to ask for a picture, he was very friendly asking where we came from and thanking us for the support all the way from Canada. I was star struck… below I have some more pictures of this wonderful experience!