Profiles - World Cup Teams - Uruguay
Uruguay, who played a pivotal role in turning soccer into an international game, make a welcome return to the World Cup after watching the last two tournaments from the sidelines.

The smallest nation to have won the trophy claimed the 32nd and final place when they beat Australia 3-1 on aggregate in a play-off after finishing fifth in the South American qualifying group.

Under the pragmatic coaching of Victor Pua, Uruguay will at the very least be hoping to emulate their performance in Italy in 1990 when they reached the last 16 before losing to the hosts. To do so, however, they must overcome Denmark, Senegal, nto to mention holders France, in Group A.

Uruguay conceded only 14 goals in 20 qualifiers, illustrating that their strength clearly lies in a defence which is led by the world-class Paolo Montero of Juventus.

Behind the back four is the outstanding Fabian Carini, who at 21 has the potential to become one of the world's great goalkeepers.

Other key players are defensive midfielder Pablo Garcia, attacking midfielder Alvaro Recoba and the quick and powerful Dario Silva of Malaga up front.

Despite their undoubted attacking qualities, Uruguay scored only 22 goals - fractionally over one a game - in qualifying, which many commentators blame on Pua's conservative tactics.

The coach invariably shuts up shop as soon as Uruguay take the lead in a game.

But Pua, who took over at the start of 2001 after former Argentina captain Daniel Passarella walked out following a row with directors, argues that he is adapting to the realities of modern football.

Japan and South Korea will present Uruguay with a chance to reverse a seemingly endless decline.

The country used to be considered a major force in the game and was among the pioneers in the creation of the World Cup.

While nations such as England remained in superior isolation in the early days, Uruguay hosted and won the first tournament in 1930 at the Centenario stadium which is still used for their home games.

Uruguay were triumphant again in 1950 and reached the semi-finals four years later but, since then, have adopted a more defensive approach.

Despite continuing to churn out world class players for Europe's biggest clubs, the country has never managed to recapture the success of the early years.

They made the semi-finals in 1970 but since then have only appeared at three more World Cups and never got beyond the last 16.

Uruguay have also acquired a reputation for gamesmanship, violent play and petulance, which they maintain is undeserved.

Occasionally, though, Uruguay's passion for the game still boils over. In 2000, the Penarol-Nacional derby at the Centenario ended in a huge brawl with players kicking and punching each other in the centre circle.

Nine players and the Penarol coach were arrested and spent a week in police custody as a result. homepage