Uruguay are the reigning Copa America champions following their success in 2011, and have been as high as third in the FIFA world rankings over the past 18 months.
That position has been hurt by an inconsistent South American qualifying campaign which leaves them struggling to make next summer’s World Cup. Twice world champions in the early days of professional football, Uruguay look likely to be fighting Chile and surprise packages Venezuela for the fourth and final automatic spot behind Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador.
Uruguay have a host of strong striking options. Any side that can claim to have Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez knows goals are almost a certain guarantee. However, they also have the presence to cause havoc from advanced attacking positions.
In Gaston Ramirez, Uruguay have a youngster who, should he keep his discipline, will only continue to improve as a footballer.
Southampton took a gamble last summer to break their transfer record and sign Ramirez from Bologna for £12m. Initially, it looked like the move would backfire. It wasn’t until after Christmas we started to see the best of Ramirez’s form in the colours of the Saints.
Ramirez has been part of the national setup for the past two years, and was undoubtedly the country’s star player during their underwhelming Olympics campaign in London last summer, which saw them exit at the group stages. His free-kick in the preliminary games against the UAE was one of the most spectacular goals of the men’s football competition.
Ramirez might be a little bit rusty ahead of the first match for Uruguay in this competition. He has played only sporadically for Uruguay since being sent off in late April against West Brom, meaning he was suspended from Southampton’s final three games of the Premier League season.
Work around the rough edges on his game, and who knows how good Ramirez can turn out to be. Uruguay will be hoping he can stand up and be counted in the Confederations Cup ahead of some pivotal qualifiers in the autumn period.
At a time where the quality of left-backs in the world is thin on the ground, Alvaro Pereira’s development means he has to be considered among the best. In fact, only Jordi Alba of Barcelona, Chelsea’s Ashley Cole and David Alaba of Bayern Munich are probably ahead on natural ability.
Pereira plays for Inter, having come to prominence with Porto, and was the pick of their players in the Europa League exit to Tottenham in the fourth round, playing well in the first leg when the rest of Inter’s players didn’t show up.
He has become first choice in defence for Uruguay, and loves to bomb forward and give opposing defenders something else to think about. He is a goal scoring defender too, netting twice in the Copa America two years ago as Uruguay achieved their 15th continental tournament.
With the ability to adapt to different scenarios, his excellent runs from the left side, and a solid consistency he often shows, Pereira is one to watch over the next fortnight.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG