|Major Honours||World Cup (2), Copa America (15), Confederations Cup (2), Olympic Gold Medal (2)|
When talking about legends of soccer, Uruguay are a team that has to be at the start of that conversation. From World Cups and Copa America's to Olympic gold medals, they have won it all.
Uruguay is one of the smallest nations by population ever to qualify for the World Cup, let alone win the competition.
Nicknamed La Celeste (The Sky Blue), Uruguay played their first-ever game against Argentina in 1901, a 3-2 loss. They played most of their first 15 years against Argentina before the inaugural Copa America, then called the South American Championships, in 1917.
The Uruguayans won the first two Copa America tournaments and took gold at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris and the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam. In the latter, they beat Argentina in the final with a 2-1 scoreline.
Uruguay won the 1983 Pan American Games and finished fourth at the 1997 and 2013 Confederations Cups.
With just 3.4 million residents, Uruguay is one of the seven smallest nations ever to qualify for a World Cup and they are the smallest to have won one.
When they won the World Cup on home soil in 1930, they had just 1.75 million inhabitants. The second-smallest country by population to win a World Cup is Argentina, who had 28 million residents when they lifted the trophy in 1978.
Early years and global success
Before the World Cup existed, FIFA recognised the Olympic champions as the world champions. As a result of winning Olympic gold in 1924 and again in 1928, Uruguay was selected to host the first-ever World Cup in 1930.
At Estadio Centenario, Uruguay beat Peru 1-0 and Romania 4-0 in the group stage. They crushed Yugoslavia 6-1 in the semi-finals, with Jose Cea scoring a hat-trick and Juan Anselmo netting two goals.
In the final, Uruguay trailed Argentina 2-1 at half-time, but Cea, Victoriano Iriarte and Hector Castro all scored in the second half to guide Uruguay to the inaugural World Cup title.
Since some European teams refused to travel to South America for the 1930 World Cup, Uruguay boycotted both the 1934 World Cup in Italy and the 1938 edition in France. World War II pre-empted the 1942 and 1946 tournaments.
Return to the World Cup and return to the throne
Brazil hosted the 1950 World Cup and Uruguay returned to the fray. They beat Bolivia 8-0 in the opening group stage as Oscar Miguez scored a hat-trick. In the final round group stage, they drew 2-2 against Spain before beating Sweden 3-2 as Miguez scored twice.
They trailed hosts Brazil 1-0 in the final before Pepe Schiaffino and Alcides Ghiggia scored to give Uruguay a significant upset in front of an estimated crowd of 200,000 fans. The win made Uruguay the first nation ever to win two World Cups.
Uruguay went to the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland as defending champions and Miguez scored three group stage goals as they beat Czechoslovakia 2-0 and Scotland 7-0.
La Celeste had four different goal scorers when beating England 4-2 in the quarter-finals, but they lost by the same scoreline against Hungary in the semis. Uruguay took fourth place after a 3-1 defeat to Austria in the bronze final.
Stagnation of late 50s and 1960s
After missing out on qualifying in 1958, Uruguay returned to the World Cup in 1962 in Chile. They beat Colombia 2-1 in the opener but lost to Yugoslavia 3-1 and the USSR 2-1, failing to advance past the group stage.
In 1966, Uruguay were drawn in the same group as hosts England and the opening game of the tournament was a 0-0 draw between the two sides at Wembley.
Uruguay then beat France 2-1 before another 0-0 draw against Mexico was enough to see them through. In the quarter-finals, they fell to West Germany 4-0.
Semi-final appearance followed by downfall
At Mexico 1970, Uruguay beat Israel 2-0, drew against Italy 0-0, and lost to Sweden 1-0. They advanced through the group stage on goal difference and then beat the USSR 1-0 in the quarter-finals.
In the semis, they took a 1-0 lead over Brazil but ultimately lost 3-1 against a team that's widely considered to be the best in history. For the second World Cup in a row, their tournament ended with a loss to West Germany, this time 1-0 in the bronze final.
Four years later, Uruguay crashed out of the group stage at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. They lost to the Netherlands 2-0, drew with Bulgaria 1-1, and lost to Sweden 3-0.
It was 12 long years before Uruguay returned to the World Cup as they failed to qualify for the 1978 and 1982 tournaments.
In 1986 in Mexico, Uruguay didn't win a single game in the group stage, but they did advance to the next round with a 0-0 draw against Scotland after they had drawn 1-1 against West Germany.
In the Round of 16, they lost 1-0 to Argentina and left with just two goals scored in four games.
Improvement and drought
The 1990 World Cup in Italy went a little better as Uruguay drew 0-0 with Spain and beat South Korea 1-0 in the group stage. However, they again went home after a Round of 16 loss, this time 2-0 to Italy.
This brought on another 12-year drought for La Celeste as they failed to qualify in 1994 or 1998. The 2002 World Cup ended without a win in the group stage and Uruguay again missed out in 2006.
New era, new generation
A new generation of exciting young players brought Uruguay back to the world stage at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Following a 0-0 draw against France, Diego Forlan scored twice in a 3-0 win over the hosts.
Uruguay finished top of the group as Luis Suarez scored in a 1-0 win over Mexico.
Suarez scored twice in a 2-1 Round of 16 win over South Korea, but was sent off late in the quarter-final against Ghana. Forlan scored in this game, but Uruguay needed a penalty shootout to beat the African side.
Without Suarez, Uruguay lost in the semi-finals 3-2 against the Netherlands and they also fell 3-2 against Germany in the bronze final.
A short trip to Brazil in 2014 put Uruguay in a tough group with Italy and England. They lost the opener to Costa Rica 3-1, with Edinson Cavani scoring the consolation.
Suarez scored twice to beat England 2-1 and Diego Godin's goal beat Italy 1-0. However, in the game against Italy, Suarez bit defender Giorgio Chiellini and was banned for nine international games, the longest suspension in World Cup history.
Without Suarez, Uruguay were blanked 2-0 by Colombia in the Round of 16. He also missed the 2015 and 2016 Copa America tournaments before returning in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
2018 World Cup
In the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Uruguay won all three group stage games with clean sheets as they dispatched Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Suarez scored twice in the group games, and Cavani added a goal as well. Cavani then scored twice in a 2-1 upset of Portugal in the Round of 16, but their run ended with a 2-0 loss to France in the quarter-finals.
The biggest rivalry for the Uruguayans is against neighbours Argentina. Dating back to 1901, the teams have played nearly 200 times, with Argentina leading the series 91-59 with 49 draws.
The teams have met twice in the World Cup, with each side winning once. They have also played 31 times in the Copa America, but never in a final.
Argentina have 14 wins in the Copa America with Uruguay winning 13 encounters.
Uruguay have played against Brazil 77 times with 20 wins, 20 draws and 37 losses. Uruguay beat Brazil to win the 1950 World Cup, and Brazil topped Uruguay in the semi-finals in 1970 by a 3-1 scoreline.
In the Copa America, the teams have met 26 times, with each winning on nine occasions. Uruguay beat Brazil to capture the 1959, 1983 and 1995 Copa America titles while finishing runners-up to Brazil in 1919, 1985 and 1999.
Uruguay have also played 83 times against Chile with 47 wins and 18 draws. They have 19 wins over Chile in the Copa America, with four draws and seven losses. They beat the Chileans in finals in 1920 and 1987.
The most capped player in the nation's history is centre-back Diego Godin with 139 caps, 14 more than defender Maxi Pereira. Edinson Cavani (118), Fernando Muslera (116), Luis Suarez (116) and Diego Forlan (112) round out the top six.
Suarez leads the nation with 63 goals, while Cavani has 51 and Forlan has 36. All three have also represented Uruguay in the English Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1 and Serie A.
Forlan won the Golden Ball at the 2010 World Cup, while Suarez was named the Player of the Tournament as Uruguay won the 2011 Copa America.
Muslera holds the record for most World Cup games with 16, two more than Cavani and Godin, with all three appearing in the 2010, 2014 and 2018 competitions.
Oscar Miguez, Suarez and Folan are the leaders in World Cup goals. Miguez has scored eight, while Suarez has seven and Forlan has six.
- Feb 15, 2021
- Jan 27, 2021