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Uruguay World Cup Preview & Analysis: Schedule, Roster & Projections

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Pictured: Federico Valverde.

  • Uruguay heads to the World Cup with a solid roster mixed with youth and experience.
  • Will they be able to make a Cinderella run?
  • Michael Leboff breaks down the team, with rosters and projections included.

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived, and Action Network’s staff of soccer experts are here to take you through each and every team that will be participating. 

Read on for a full breakdown of Uruguay ahead of the tournament, and click here for analysis on each of the other 31 teams.

Uruguay World Cup Preview

When people are asked who the most successful countries in international soccer are, they’ll likely rattle off some obvious names.

Brazil, France, Argentina, Germany, England, Spain and Italy are likely to come up, and maybe they’ll throw in the Netherlands and Portugal, too. All of those countries have had enormous impacts on the footballing world and most of them have tasted plenty of success in major tournaments.

But perhaps no country has punched above its weight better than Uruguay, a tiny country of 3.5 million people sandwiched between Brazil (214 million) and Argentina (45.3 million people). Despite being only the 10th-biggest country in South America, Uruguay have won 15 Copa America titles and two World Cups (1930, 1950), making Uruguay one of six nations to have hoisted the Jules Rimet Trophy more than once. 

It’s been a while since Uruguay tasted glory — their last Copa America title came in 2011 — and La Celeste’s history in World Cups over 70 years ago is irrelevant to how they’ll perform in 2022, but it does show that Uruguay has the pedigree and system in place to have success in these formats. They’re doing something right, as evidenced by a trip to the semi-finals in 2010 and impressive group-stage records in 2014 and 2018.

Chances To… Action Projections bet365 Odds
Win Group Stage 23.78% +200
Advance To Knockout Round 68.44% -250
Win World Cup 1.29% +5000
Odds as of publish. Action projections by Nick Giffen of the Action Predictive Analytics team.

One of the challenges of handicapping international soccer tournaments is that there’s very little continuity and fluidity. Teams play every few weeks, there’s a ton of roster turnover and a good portion of the games they play are meaningless or against terrible teams, so the data is noisy and it forces you into a lot more raw handicapping. 

With Uruguay in years past, that handicap was pretty stable. Oscar Tabarez managed Los Charruas from 2006 to 2021, and he had the team playing a well-structured defensive style that was tough to break down. It’s why Uruguay punched up so well as a group: Pack the middle of the pitch and hope Diego Forlan, Edison Cavani or Luis Suarez would provide a moment of magic on the scoreboard.

That formula provided Uruguay with a pretty high floor and made them a live underdog, but this time around, it’s Uruguay’s ceiling that is worth talking about.

After 15 years in charge, Tabarez and Uruguay went their separate ways in 2021, opening the door for Diego Alonso. The new manager has plenty of talent at his disposal, and unlike in years past, this version of La Celeste is all about the attacking talent.

Suarez and Cavani are still around and will play their parts in Qatar, but Uruguay will lean heavily on Fede Valverde, Darwin Nunez and Rodrigo Bentancur to carry La Celeste. 

Uruguay’s defense should still be pretty stable — especially if Ronald Araujo is able to play — and they have the personnel to grind out results, but for the first time in a long time it seems like La Celeste will be able to win matches in a number of different ways. They can outscore you, or they can wear you down.

Group H is wide open, with a lukewarm favorite in Portugal at the top and South Korea and Ghana projected behind Uruguay, so another trip to the Round of 16 is likely in the cards for Uruguay, and they’ll be the cliche “team nobody wants to face” in the knockout stages.

You can make a strong case for a longshot bet on Uruguay.

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Key Player: Federico Valverde

Less than 12 months ago, Federico Valverde was struggling to make an impact at Real Madrid. 

Long thought of as a possible replacement for Casemiro at defensive midfielder, Valverde sat patiently and waited for his turn to join the engine room at the Bernabeu. But manager Carlo Ancelotti had a stroke of genius, putting Valverde in a false winger role where he can use his pace and energy to cover the entire right flank. 

The move has completely transformed Valverde’s career, as he’s been one of the best players in La Liga this season. 

Whether or not the incredible success Valverde has achieved with Real Madrid can carry over to the national team remains to be seen. Valverde plays more of a box-to-box central role with La Celeste, but his versatility and ability to wreck a game with one flick of his foot makes him the most important player for Uruguay.

Tactical Analysis

Under Oscar Tabarez, Uruguay were known for their no-nonsense style and played out of a 4-4-2 formation that was difficult to break down. But after a successful 15-year stint in which he transformed the national program, Tabarez’s style became a bit stale, and Uruguay brought in Diego Alonso with the hope that he would be able to make the most of a talented side that includes Nunez, Valverde, Rossi, Bentancur, Cavani and Suarez.

That’s an impressive group of attackers, and just how Alonso plans on fitting all the pieces together remains to be seen.

What we can expect from Los Charruas under Alonso is more pressure higher up the pitch. Under Tabarez, Uruguay was often set up like a big sky blue bus that defended with its life. That won’t be the case in Qatar, as Uruguay project to be an all-action team that will force teams into mistakes rather than wait for them to make one.

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Uruguay World Cup Schedule

Opponent Day/Time
South Korea 8 a.m. ET, Nov. 24
Portugal 2 p.m. ET, Nov. 28
Ghana 10 a.m. ET, Dec. 2

Most Recent World Cup Result

Quarterfinals (2018)

Uruguay amassed three wins to go with three clean sheets in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup, and they advanced past Portugal in the Round of 16. In the quarters, eventual champions Portugal proved too much for La Celeste to handle.


Uruguay World Cup Roster

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