Uruguay World Cup 2022 guide: Key players, injuries, tactics & tournament prediction

Uruguay have plenty of familiar faces but several emerging talents as well
Uruguay have plenty of familiar faces but several emerging talents as well / Briony Painter | 90min

Uruguay will always hold a special place in World Cup history. They hosted and won the very first tournament in 1930 and hold more titles than Spain and England, and as many as France and Argentina, despite a population today under 3.5 million people.

This century alone, they have produced some of the world's best goalscorers in Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan. Suarez and Cavani are still going even now, both well into their thirties, as is veteran centre-back Diego Godin and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera - all survivors from 2010 when La Celeste reached the semi-finals, albeit in controversial circumstances, and finished fourth.

But this Uruguay generation has a good blend of youth and experience, with plenty of those in the squad - like Manchester United talent Facundo Pellistri - in their early to mid-twenties.

This is also the first time since since 2002 that Uruguay have been to a World Cup without legendary former manager Oscar Tabarez, who was finally let go last year because of poor results during qualifying. Former Inter Miami coach Diego Alonso is now the man in charge.

Group H has the potential to throw up one of the more tasty clashes of the first round when Uruguay meet Ghana for the first time since 2010. That previous encounter remains one of the World Cup's most infamous games, with Luis Suarez using his hands to block a certain Ghana winner at the very end of extra-time, Asamoah Gyan missing the subsequent penalty and then Uruguay prevailing in a shootout to deny Ghana a place in history as Africa's first ever semi-finalists.

When are Uruguay's group games?

  • Uruguay vs South Korea, November 24 (13:00 GMT)
  • Portugal vs Uruguay, November 28 (19:00 GMT)
  • Ghana vs Uruguay, December 2 (15:00 GMT)
  • Uruguay vs South Korea H2H record: Played 8, Won 6, Drawn 1, Lost 1
  • Uruguay vs Portugal H2H record: Played 3, Won 1, Drawn 1 , Lost 1
  • Uruguay vs Ghana H2H record: Played 1, Drawn 1

Who is in Uruguay's confirmed 26-player squad for the World Cup?

Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Sebastian Sosa (Independiente), Sergio Rochet (Nacional)

Defenders: Jose Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Diego Godin (Velez Sarsfield), Ronald Araujo (Barcelona), Guillermo Varela (Flamengo), Mathias Olivera (Napoli), Matias Vina (Roma), Sebastian Coates (Sporting CP), Martin Caceres (LA Galaxy), Jose Luis Rodriguez (Nacional)

Midfielders: Matias Vecino (Lazio), Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham), Nicolas de la Cruz (River Plate), Giorgian de Arrascaeta (Flamengo), Lucas Torreira (Galatasaray), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Manuel Ugarte (Sporting CP)

Forwards: Facundo Pellistri (Man Utd), Luis Suarez (Nacional), Darwin Nunez (Liverpool), Maxi Gomez (Trabzonspor), Facundo Torres (Orlando City), Edinson Cavani (Valencia), Agustin Canobbio (Athletico Paranaense)

Which Uruguay players are missing the World Cup through injury?

Uruguay haven't been forced to omit anyone major from the squad because of injury, although Edinson Cavani missed Valencia's last two games before the World Cup break began. Picking Ronald Araujo might also be gamble as the Barcelona defender has been out since undergoing thigh muscle surgery in September that looked like it would rule him out of contention here.

36-year-old Cristhian Stuani has missed out, despite a decent return for Girona in La Liga this season.

Who are Uruguay's best players?

Luis Suarez is back at domestic giants Nacional but still scoring goals and winning trophies
Luis Suarez is back at domestic giants Nacional but still scoring goals and winning trophies / DANTE FERNANDEZ/GettyImages

Luis Suarez

He may be nearly 36, past his peak and preparing for the fourth and final World Cup of his career, but Luis Suarez is one the greatest players of his generation and no one dare underestimate the former Liverpool, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid star.

Suarez has been playing his club football back home in Uruguay with first professional club Nacional since July and has scored eight times in 14 games for them.

Darwin Nunez

As Suarez and Edinson Cavani prepare to bow out after Qatar, the next Uruguay's next star striker is ready to step up. This is a first World Cup for £85m Darwin Nunez, who has still posted impressive numbers for Liverpool despite a much publicised tough start.

The 23-year-old, and that's still all he is, is likely to start and at least marked his last Uruguay appearance with a first international goal in nearly two years in victory over Canada.

Federico Valverde

Federico Valverde has been one of Real Madrid's best and most important players over the last 18 months and that is no mean feat in a team that includes 2021 Ballon d'Or Karim Benzema, as well as Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Thibaut Courtois.

Having excelled as a winger at club level in recent times, he has often played in midfield for Uruguay too. He has the versatility and skill to do either just as well.

Jose Gimenez

Once the apprentice and now the master, it is telling that Atletico Madrid have lost four times in La Liga when Jose Gimenez hasn't started this season and never when he has. With former clubmate Diego Godin still going strong at 36, it promises to make Uruguay difficult to break down.

The centre-back is similarly crucial for Uruguay, although a back injury in September that he has since recovered from means he hasn't actually played international football since June.

Uruguay predicted starting lineup

Two solid banks of four both gives Uruguay the tactical solidity they are known for, while at the same time being able to accomodate two strikers. But they have the versatility to switch it up to either 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 depending on the game. That could come in handy against three very different group stage opponents.

Uruguay predicted XI (4-4-2): Muslera; Varela, Godin, Gimenez, Olivera; Valverde, Vecino, Bentancur, De Arrescaeta; Nunez, Suarez

Harry Symeou hosts Toby Cudworth & Jack Gallagher to look back on Germany '06 as part of the 'Our World Cups' series. We take a trip down memory lane - join us!

If you can't see the podcast embed, click here to download the episode in full!

Uruguay's form going into the World Cup

A shock defeat against Iran aside, Uruguay have been in decent form in 2022. Defensive solidity is their big strength and they have only conceded twice in nine games so far this calendar year.

Following Oscar Tabarez's dismissal a year ago, they finished the qualifying strongly by putting together four consecutive wins over Paraguay, Venezuela, Peru and Chile to book a place in Qatar that had previously looked in doubt.

They have lacked much in the way of diverse tests, however. The Iran game played in Austria in September is oddly the only time since before the Covid-19 pandemic that Uruguay have played either outside of the Americas or against a non-South/North/Central American opponent.

Uruguay's last five results (all competitions)

Canada 0-2 Uruguay
Iran 1-0 Uruguay
Uruguay 5-0 Panama
USA 0-0 Uruguay
Mexico 0-3 Uruguay

Where will Uruguay finish in the World Cup?

Group H is not the easiest because both South Korea and Ghana have shown at previous World Cups that they are capable of rocking the boat. Ghana could even carry extra motivation as they try to enact revenge for 2010. But Uruguay, with all the talent and experience they have, will be expected to progress to the knockouts and maybe even top the standings ahead of Portugal.

That could set up a likely last 16 encounter with Switzerland, which again is a favourable game for a Uruguay side this good and well drilled. Going much further when the competition gets far stronger might be a stretch. That being said, if you're looking for a dark horse, Uruguay could be it.

Prediction: Quarter-finals