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Page last updated at 11:05 GMT, Tuesday, 25 May 2010 12:05 UK

My First World Cup: Diego Lugano

Diego Lugano
Lugano notched a number of crucial goals in qualifying for South Africa

By Ben Sutherland

Uruguay captain Diego Lugano has told the BBC of the pressure that still attaches itself to competing in the World Cup for the team that won the first ever tournament, on home turf in 1930.

Lugano said that, now Uruguay had reached the finals, it was sometimes difficult to "come back to Earth" and focus on the tournament.

But he added that Uruguayan culture remains fixated on the prospect of a third world title, to go with the 1930 and 1950 crowns.

"In Uruguay, the words 'World Cup', to a child, mean to be champion," he told BBC Mundo.

"And Uruguay, as two-time winners of the World Cup, has a long tradition in football - not only participating but wanting to be champions. Our own culture instilled a great football tradition, with many titles, and I have felt that tradition since I was young."

Meeting Mandela

Lugano, who plays his club football in Turkey for Fenerbahce, has played for the two-time World Champions since 2003, but missed the 2006 World Cup as the team failed to qualify.

He was named South America's best defender in 2005, the year his then club, Sao Paulo, won the Club World Championship.

BBC My First World Cup XI
11 players making their debut on the World Cup stage at South Africa 2010

He said he was "privileged" to be captaining the team, and was seeking to make the most of a "big opportunity to make history again".

"There is a good squad, with young men who have great desire," he explained.

"I think that has to be the main thing. The desire, the joy of being there, wanting to make history."

And he stressed that the early matches of Group A - which contains France, Mexico and the hosts South Africa - should be easier for the players to deal with, having got through a difficult play-off game against Costa Rica - won 2-1 over two legs.

"You have to say that the play-offs are very difficult for the Uruguayans - as you say, there is the responsibility, the pressure, for everything that is played," Lugano said.

"Now we have passed the qualifying test for the World Cup, we should be ready to take responsibility."

Meanwhile, Lugano also expressed a hope to meet Nelson Mandela at some point.

"I think that would be a dream - the most spectacular thing above all.

"It is fair that the World Cup is in South Africa, because football is a universal passion and an opportunity to every continent to organise this event I think is very fair, and is something that certainly is good for the sport."

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see also
Martinez out of Uruguay Cup squad
01 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Uruguay take last World Cup spot
19 Nov 09 |  Internationals
Guide to the teams at South Africa 2010
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010
World Cup venues
05 Dec 09 |  World Cup 2010

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