Confed Cup gives Uruguay confidence
27 June 2013, 18:07
Brasilia - Uruguay lost 2-1 to Brazil in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, but they drew very positive conclusions from their participation in the tournament and their prospects en route to next year's World Cup.
"If we play like this we are in a position to play anyone, and that is ground that we have gained for the qualifiers ahead," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said late on Wednesday in Belo Horizonte.
Brazil needed an 86th minute goal from Paulinho to overcome La Celeste, and Uruguay striker Diego Forlan had failed to convert a penalty in the 15th minute at the Mineirao Stadium.
"We can compete with top-level teams, including Brazil," Tabarez said. "That's a plus when it comes to playing future matches."
Uruguay have struggled in recent months in the South American qualifiers, and got just two points in six matches in succession until they beat Venezuela in a crucial match on June 11.
Such a poor streak has left the team that came fourth in South Africa 2010 and won the Copa America a year later seriously at risk of not qualifying for Brazil 2014.
They currently stand five points behind fourth-placed Chile, though with a game in hand, and appear to be rather in a race with Venezuela and Peru for fifth place, which grants the chance to a play-off against an Asian team rather than a direct World Cup berth.
Uruguay have four rounds of qualifiers left to play, and they will not be easy.
"We have four very important games left," Tabarez said. "The last three are against the three top teams in the qualifiers."
The key 1-0 win in Venezuela and they results in the Confed Cup - a 2-1 defeat against world champions Spain, a 2-1 win against Nigeria and the expected 8-0 thrashing of Tahiti's amateurs as well as their good match against the hosts - appear to have revived La Celeste.
On Sunday, Uruguay will have a further chance to boost their confidence against a high-profile rival. They are set to play the loser of Thursday's semifinal between Italy and Spain in Salvador, at a match for third place of the Confed Cup.
Tabarez's players were confident despite their defeat to Brazil.
"We need to leave with our heads up high. Now we have to think about (the match for third place) and then about the qualifiers to get a World Cup spot," said striker Edinson Cavani, who scored Uruguay's goal against Brazil.
"This match can be taken as preparation," said Luis Suarez.
A long way remains ahead for Uruguay to regain the place in global football that they held in 2010-11, perhaps surprisingly for a country of just 3 million people sandwiched between football giants Brazil and Argentina.
The Confederations Cup allowed Tabarez and his men to show that their recent poor results are not necessarily the end of an era and may in fact be just a spell of poor form.
In order for that to be more than just a hypothesis, however, they will need to validate it away against Peru in September, in the second of what Tabarez termed their five finals en route to Brazil 2014.
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