Colombia 2011 will be Uruguay’s third consecutive appearance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, following their elimination in the Round of 16 in both 2007 and 2009. La Celeste have a long history in this competition, having graced the first two editions in 1977 and 1979, when they lost to respective champions USSR and Argentina in successive semi-finals. However, the 1980s would prove more challenging with the South Americans missing out on the next three editions. The following decade would see a return to form with appearances at four of the next five tournaments, including a runners-up spot at Malaysia 1997, their best finish to date. One stat worth keeping in mind is that, aside from Portugal 1991, Los Charrúas have always reached the knockout stages when competing at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.
The phenomenal success enjoyed by Uruguay's senior side at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ would appear to have motivated the country’s youth teams even further. At the South American U-20 Championship earlier this year, La Celeste became the first team (apart from the hosts) to secure their berth at Colombia 2011, while simultaneously qualifying for their first Olympic Football Tournament in 84 years. Under the watchful eye of coach Juan Verzeri, Uruguay grew in stature as the qualifying event wore on. After only finishing third in the opening group phase with four points, the South Americans hit their stride in the hexagonal final phase with three wins and a draw from their first four games. With a top-two finish by then guaranteed, not even an emphatic 5-0 reverse to eventual champions Brazil on the final day could dampen Uruguayan celebrations.
After two successive eliminations in the Round of 16, La Celeste will be aiming for at least a top-eight finish in Colombia. To achieve that, however, the team will need to work on their finishing, as demonstrated by their modest tally of ten goals in nine qualifying games, and remain as firm as ever in midfield. Among their talented squad are a slew of players with European experience, including Diego Polenta, Leandro Cabrera, Pablo Cepellini and Federico Rodriguez. “We have a spectacular group of players, who are hugely committed. This will be our third successive (U-20) World Cup and we’ve also secured our passage to the Olympics. You could say we’re making our mark on Uruguayan football history. Now, though, we need to go and prove our worth in both these competitions, and I believe we have the players to do just,” said their coach Verzeri.