After an amazing group stage performance for the South American nations participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Chile Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina failed to deliver in the final stages of the competition. That left Uruguay as the last one standing in the race to lift the trophy.
Chile’s defeat to Spain in the last match of group H forced a continental clash against Brazil in the round of 16 and we know how that story ended. Then there were 4.
Last Friday and Saturday quarterfinals were designed in such a way that we could see at least 3, if not all 4, South American countries moving to a historical semifinal stage. Brazil were favorites against the Netherlands, Argentina could outplay Germany, Uruguay had huge chances against Ghana and Paraguay’s defense could neutralize Spain and cause a major upset.
Yeah, it’s all could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.
On the pitch the story was a lot different. Brazil didn’t know how to maintain and increase their lead after dominating the first half against Holland and saw Sneijder and Robben steal from them the chance of a sixth title. Argentina watched in shock a Germany playing as “klose” to perfection as a team can get. Paraguay had a chance to terminate Spain’s dream but Cardozo just couldn’t convert from the penalty spot in the end of the second half.
But Uruguay had Forlán. And a new hero (and also occasional goalkeeper) – Luis Suarez.
Playing the second quarterfinal of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Uruguay was not, by any means, the main attraction of the Friday evening World Cup action. Some people were still trying to wrap their minds around Brazil’s early exit and some others were praising, commenting and dreaming about Ghana’s chance of being the first African nation to reach a semifinal in the most important football tournament on the planet.
Uruguay wanted to repeat their 1970 journey to the semifinals just that now they wouldn’t have to meet an inspired Pelé to end their dream of a third tittle. In fact this 2010 Uruguay’s campaign to the World Cup finals resembles the 1950 team who silenced 200 million people in Maracanã stadium when they lift the trophy by beating home favorites Brazil. This Uruguayan team that made it to South Africa struggled throughout the continental qualifiers and as fifth in the final standings had to decide their fate in a playoff match against Costa Rica. They barely made it.
And there they are. Suarez had to save that ball with his hands in the last minute of extra-time to avoid Ghana’s goal and maybe, just maybe have a chance to continue in the competition. To see his reaction after walking towards the locker-rooms and then turning his head around just in time to see Asamoah Gyan’s shot hit the crossbar is one of the strongest moments of the tournament.
Just like a cat Uruguay still had another life to spare. They survived the penalty shootout bringing an entire continent of 1 billion people to tears and joy and extase to a country of 3.5 million people.
Suarez became an instant martyr. Someone who sacrificed his spot in the semifinals so that the team could have a chance to make it there. And now their spirits are high. Led on the field by the brave general Diego Forlán the Uruguayans – who once were part of the Empire of Brazil – have a chance to redeem their once countrymen and now neighbors and defeat the Netherlands.
Another battle. Uruguay is the underdog once again. But that’s when the mystical powers of La Celeste Olimpica come out.
Vamos Uruguay. A la lucha!!!