- Luis Suárez– Goals: 68
- Edinson Cavani – Goals: 58
- Diego Forlan – Goals: 36
- Hector Scarone – Goals: 31
- Angel Romano – Goals: 28
Uruguay National Football Team History
Copa America World Champs
Uruguay’s first official match was in 1902 against Argentina in Montevideo. Argentina defeated Uruguay 6-0, but La Celeste won the first-ever South American Championship -later renamed the Copa America- in 1916. Wins over Chile and Brazil, plus a draw against Argentina, were enough to seal the title for Uruguay. Isabelino Gradin finished as the tournament’s top scorer, with three goals.
The Uruguay national football team also won the 1917 edition of the South American Championship by outscoring their opponents 9-0. Olympic soccer tournaments are now mostly u-23, but teams often fielded their best players through most of the 20th century. Uruguay won the gold medal in both 1924 and 1928.
Hosts & Winners of the 1930 World Cup
With a lot of early success, Uruguay were chosen as the hosts of the first World Cup in 1930. La Celeste didn’t concede a single goal in the group stage as they advanced to the semifinals. There, Jose Cea scored four goals in a 6-1 win over Yugoslavia to advance to the final. The Uruguay national football team trailed 2-1 at halftime in the final against Argentina, but La Celeste scored three goals in the second half to win 4-2; thus, hosts Uruguay won the first ever FIFA World Cup.
Boycotts, WWII… & the Maracanazo
Uruguay boycotted both the 1934 and 1938 World Cups but had won an impressive seven South American Championships by that point. WWII meant that there were no World Cups in 1942 and 1946, but La Celeste won an eighth South American Championship in 1942.
The World Cup returned in 1950 and Uruguay won their second title in two appearances. In the final, Uruguay trailed hosts and heavily favored Brazil 1-0 midway through the second half. All of a sudden, La Celeste scored two goals to complete an unlikely comeback win, leaving everyone shocked. The match is called the Maracanazo (or the “Blow at the Maracana”) as it was incredibly flabbergasting to Brazilian spectators.
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Downward Spiral: No World Cup for the First Time
La Celeste finished in fourth place at the 1954 World Cup. Uruguay won another South American Championship in 1956, but reached a new low in 1958. Uruguay failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time.
Aside from a quarterfinals appearance in 1966 and a fourth-place finish in 1970, Uruguay underperformed in their remaining 20th century FIFA World Cup appearances. However, they did win an incredible 14 South American Championships/Copa Americas up until 2000.
Return to 2010 Prominence
With a bunch of talented attacking players, Uruguay returned to prominence at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan, and Edinson Cavani starred as Uruguay won their group. Following a scoreless draw with France in their opener, Uruguay defeated South Africa 3-0 and Mexico 1-0.
Without conceding a goal for over five and a half hours of game time, Uruguay finally gave up a goal in the round of 16 against South Korea. Regardless, Luis Suarez scored a brace to send Uruguay to their first quarterfinals since 1970.
Uruguay fell behind against Ghana in their quarterfinals matchup but Diego Forlan equalized and sent the match to extra time. In extra time, Ghana nearly scored but a Suarez handball prevented a goal. He was red carded and Ghana received a penalty but Asamoah Gyan missed it. In the resulting penalty shootout, Uruguay were victorious and made the semifinals.
Without Suarez, Uruguay national football team lost to Netherlands 3-2 in the semifinals and fell to Germany in the third place game by the same scoreline. With the fourth place finish, Uruguay returned to prominence on the world stage. Forlan finished with five goals and was voted the tournament’s best player. Uruguay won their record 15th Copa America one year later.
Controversy at Brazil 2014
Suarez was at the center of even more controversy at Brazil 2014. Uruguay had lost their first match 3-1 to Costa Rica and Uruguay’s talisman returned from injury to score two goals in a win against England. Then, he bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s 1-0 win and was banned for nine international matches. La Celeste advanced in second place in their group but were eliminated by Colombia in the round of 16.
Uruguay had a perfect record in the 2018 group stage and didn’t concede a goal, like in 2010. Edinson Cavani scored a double in a 2-1 round of 16 victory against Portugal but Uruguay fell to eventual champions France in the quarters.
Despite a slow start to CONMEBOL qualifiers, Qatar 2022 will be Uruguay’s fourth consecutive World Cup appearance.
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