Tabarez takes Uruguay to biggest match in 40 years
Associated Press Writer
KIMBERLEY, South Africa (AP) – In his second stint as coach of Uruguay, Oscar Tabarez is leading the team into the biggest match of his career and the country’s most important World Cup moment in four decades.
When Uruguay, a two-time world champion, faces Ghana on Friday it will be the first time since 1970 that the South American country has played in the tournament’s quarterfinals.
“I try not to think about those things … because they affect your concentration, even if you try to avoid it,” the 63-year-old coach said. “I think it’s the most important match for Uruguayan football in recent times.”
Nicknamed “maestro” because of his previous career as a teacher, Tabarez made a name for himself as a coach when he led Uruguayan club Penarol to the Copa de Libertadores title in 1987.
He then guided the national team to the round of 16 in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, which was its best result since reaching the semifinals in 1970.
He moved to Europe but didn’t achieve success with Milan, and returned to South America after a brief spell at the Spanish club Oviedo. After Uruguay failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, Tabarez took charge of the national team for a second time.
Uruguay has conceded only one goal in three wins and one draw in South Africa, and the players give Tabarez credit for the team’s success.
“I think that the coach has been a fundamental factor,” midfielder Alvaro Pereira said.
Captain Diego Lugano agreed.
“It’s indisputable that during these years his work has been serious, professional, well-planned and coherent,” Lugano said.
Tabarez made difficult decisions when he selected his squad. He left out Cristian Rodriguez, an experienced player, and opted for rising stars such as Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
“He is quite calm as a coach, with a lot of experience, who knows how to handle the group very well,” said striker Diego Forlan. “The experience that he has from (the 1990 World Cup) and other teams has helped us all a lot.”
For Friday’s quarterfinal against Ghana, Tabarez has left central defender Diego Godin out of the lineup after Godin injured his thigh in a second-round win over South Korea. Mauricio Victorino will replace him.
Tabarez said he also will make a tactical switch and bring in midfielder Alvaro Fernandez to replace Alvaro Pereira.