Uruguay’s greatest World Cup XI
There are fewer countries that pack a punch in world football quite like Uruguay. Despite only having a population of 3.5 million, this small South American nation is a juggernaut in world football. This is particularly true when it comes to the World Cup. Having reached 14 World Cup finals (including 2022), Uruguay have won two of these – in 1930 and 1950 – and also reached the last four on three other occasions. With the nation benefitting from Spanish and Italian influences on their side over the years, La Celeste has always had a wealth of stars to choose from – no matter what era they played in. So who would make Uruguay’s greatest World Cup XI?
GK: Fernando Muslera
There have been fewer consistent faces in a Uruguay squad quite like Fernando Muslera. The modern-day mainstay has been Uruguay’s main choice in goal for three of the most recent world cups – 2010,2014 and 2018. Known for his excellent reach and shot-stopping abilities, Muslera is known for being a safe pair of hands no matter what environment he plays in. It is why he has featured in every one of Uruguay’s World Cup games in the 2010s. Over this time, Muslera has kept an astonishing 7 clean sheets including three consecutive clean sheets in the 2010 World Cup setting a record for longest gap without conceding in a tournament. This adds to the fact that Muslera has played 16 games for Uruguay in the World Cup – a feat no one else has achieved for the South American side.
RB: Jose Nasazzi
Jose Nasazzi may not be a name known to many but the Uruguayan defender holds a unique place in football history. That’s because he was the first person to ever lift the Jules Rimet Trophy when Uruguay beat Argentina 4-2 in the 1930 World Cup Final. As captain of the winning side, Nasazzi led his team playing as either a right-back or centre-back in a unique 2-3-5 formation. His hard-work and effort earnt him the 1930 Golden Ball and set the standard for fellow captains to aspire too years down the track.
LB: Schubert Gambetta
Capable of playing as a defender on either flank, Schubert Gambetta shone as a versatile defender that could shut down the very best of his era. A member of the winning 1950 squad, Gambetta was capable of putting on big performances when it mattered most. It was these efforts that saw him named in the 1950 All-Star World Cup team and earned particular plaudits for his defensive output against Brazil in the famous game at the Maracana.
CB: Diego Godin
For Uruguay, no-one in the modern game has been more devoted to the national side than Diego Godin. The powerful defender has been a pillar for his country leading at both the 2014 and 2018 tournaments. His excellent tackling and aerial abilities are supplemented by the fact he can handle immense pressure with ease. It why Godin has been a rock in 14 World Cup matches for his nation – joint second in Uruguay’s history. Having also been featured in the 2018 World Cup All Star side, Godin has proven that he is one of the best defenders of his generation.
CB: Obdulio Varela
There are fewer sporting heroes in Uruguay as fondly remembered as Obdulio Varela is. Varela was the captain of the side that won the 1950 World Cup where he particularly shone as a strong leader. As well as excellent leadership, Varela had strong tactical knowledge that he used to shut opposition down and he was extremely hard to beat in a one-on-one situation. It was why “The Black Chief” was always a handful to deal with whenever he was on the pitch. He also scored several crucial goals including one to grab a vital 2-2 draw with Spain in 1950 and one to help knock out England in the 4-2 quarter final win at the 1954 tournament. These accolades ensure that Varela remains one of the icons of the sport long into the future.
CM: Jose Andrade
One of the first black stars in international football, Jose Andrade showcased all the memorable assets that modern stars possess. Quick and agile on the ball, Andrade could drive play forward and get past defenders like it was nothing. It was why he became one of the top stars of the 1930 World Cup being included in the first ever World Cup All Star team as well as one of the first winners of the tournament itself. Having laid down the groundwork for others to follow, Andrade remains a pioneer almost a century from when he was strutting his stuff on the pitch.
CM: Pedro Rocha
Pedro Rocha may have not been the superstar of his generation but the midfielder could always be relied upon by his country. Rocha’s metronomic-like passing and underrated tackling abilities made him a key component for Uruguay throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s. He is the only Uruguayan player to feature in 4 World Cup tournaments – captaining Rocha in both 1970 and 1974. It was in 1970 where Rocha guided his nation to 4th place and reminded everyone that Uruguay were still a force in world football.
CM: Juan Alberto Schiaffino
It’s very rare that a player represents two nations but Juan Alberto Schiaffino did just that. Holding dual Italian and Uruguayan citizenship, Schiaffino’s technical acumen made him one of the most devastating midfielders of his time. He could bend the ball with ease to find his targets and also developed a keen eye for goal. This was seen throughout the 1950s where he scored 5 times in both the 1950 and 1954 World Cup tournaments. His most memorable goal came in the 1950 World Cup final where he equalized for his country in the 66th minute before Uruguay went on to snatch a late winner. It was this moment that secured him the Silver Ball at the 1950 tournament as well as a spot in the All-Star Team as well as a place in sporting history.
FW: Diego Forlan
When it came to stepping up for his country, few stars did it as well as Diego Forlan. As a winger, Forlan had pace to burn but also had the knack to play in the centre and convert chances whenever he found space. It was why he was so devastating in the box which he proved in the 2010 World Cup. During his time in South Africa, Forlan scored 5 goals to help Uruguay finish fourth at the tournament. This included several stunning strikes with 3 of them coming from outside of the area. It was these reasons why Forlan not only scooped the Golden Boot award but was also named Golden Ball winner for the tournament. A memorable performance from one of Uruguay’s modern greats.
FW: Luis Suarez
There is no player who straddles the line between hero and villain quite like Luis Suarez. Whilst the world may scream in anger at Suarez for some of his actions, he is revered by fans in his homeland. This comes down to the fact that he can score and change a game whenever he feels like it. Proof of this – 7 goals across 3 World Cup tournaments in the 2010s. It was his 3 goals in the 2010 World Cup that sent his name into folklore and he was named in the 2010 All Star team – despite his now-infamous handball against Ghana in the quarter-finals. No matter what he does off the ball, Suarez’s 7 goals in World Cup tournaments proves his abilities at the highest level – including holding the national side’s record for goals scored with 68 altogether.
FW: Oscar Miguez
Despite only playing for Uruguay in the 1950’s, Oscar Miguez left a sizeable impact when playing for his homeland. Miguez was lethal in the penalty box and would score without any hesitation if given the chance. This was proven in the 1950 tournament where he scored 5 goals in the tournament including a hat-trick against Bolivia as well as a dramatic brace against Sweden. These goals were pivotal in helping Uruguay secure their second World Cup trophy. He would also score three times in the 1954 tournament scoring twice against Scotland in a 7-0 victory during the group stages. With 8 goals, Miguez is still Uruguay’s leading goal scorer at World Cup tournaments and a reminder of how devastating the side can be at the world’s biggest tournament.