Charruas a faded force

BUENOS AIRES - Uruguay were the last team to make it to the 2010 World Cup, but their players are looking forward to their chance of reviving the South American country's long-gone football greatness.

BUENOS AIRES - Uruguay were the last team to make it to the 2010 World Cup, but their players are looking forward to their chance of reviving the South American country's long-gone football greatness.

Uruguay- nickname Charruas - have won two editions of the prestigious global event, but they date back to 1930 and 1950.

Recent times have been marked by disappointment: of the past four editions of the World Cup, they only played one, in 2002, and even then they crashed out in the first round.

On the way to South Africa, however, Uruguay are clearly upbeat. The team led on the pitch by captain Diego Lugano and star striker Diego Forlan got through a playoff against Costa Rica to avoid the disappointment of four years ago, when they crashed in the playoff match against Australia.

Over three years, veteran coach Oscar Tabarez has built a stable team, with a mix of experienced players like Forlan, Lugano or even always-reliable substitute Sebastian Abreu, and youngsters like Luis Suarez, Alvaro Pereira and keeper Fernando Muslera.

Uruguayan Football Association president Sebastian Bauza summed up the general feeling when he described qualification to South Africa 2010 as the chance "to change the image of Uruguayan football".

And yet players and officials alike know there is still a lot of work to be done.

Uruguay only won six matches out of 18 in the South American qualifiers, with six draws and six defeats. Perhaps more significantly, they only managed to win one match out of eight against the teams that went on to qualify for the World Cup.

THE COACH:

Oscar Tabarez, 62, is a very experienced coach at club and national team level. Nicknamed "El Maestro", the teacher, Tabarez makes a point of standing by his players through thick and thin. Since his current stint with Uruguay started in 2006, he has insisted on stability as the best path to recover the country's lost football prestige.

THE STAR:

Diego Forlan, 30, has already scored a goal in the greatest event of the sport, against Senegal in Japan and South Korea 2002.

After a run in Argentine side Independiente and a hapless stay with Manchester United, he finally fulfilled his potential as a striker at Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, where he won two European Golden Shoe awards.

The soft-spoken Forlan has played for Uruguay since 2002, and he is a leader on and off the pitch, though critics have sometimes accused him of failing to play as well for the national team as he does at the club level.

Uruguay have been paired with hosts South Africa, Mexico and France in Group A. - Sapa-DPA

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