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Page last updated at 18:51 GMT, Thursday, 1 July 2010 19:51 UK

World Cup 2010: Underdogs Uruguay hunt third cup

Juan 'Pepe' Schiaffino scores against Brazil in 1950
Juan 'Pepe' Schiaffino fires Uruguay into the lead against Brazil in 1950. After the game, Brazil ditched their 'unlucky' white shirts in favour of yellow and green

By Vladimir Hernandez
BBC Mundo

If Uruguay emerge victorious in the World Cup final at Johannesburg's Soccer City on 11 July, it will not be the biggest surprise in the country's sporting history.

For that you have to go back 60 years, when the Uruguayans shocked the world by beating hosts Brazil to win the 1950 tournament.

Uruguay were one of the planet's big football powers but the Brazilians were the clear favourites going into the game, especially with a home crowd of approaching 200,000 cheering them on.

It is said that there has never been more people inside a football ground to watch a match than there were in Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium on 16 July 1950 and once Brazil went in front in the second half of that game, everyone thought the result was no longer in doubt.

At home, people always expect us to win the World Cup every time we come to this competition

Captain Diego Lugano

Legend has it that the Fifa president of the time, Jules Rimet, even went into the changing rooms to prepare his congratulatory speech for the hosts.

But Uruguay, the ultimate underdog, turned the game around in dramatic fashion, winning with a goal 11 minutes from time.

The ground went absolutely silent at the final whistle. There were even reports of suicides and Brazil never wore its "unlucky" white top again, adopting a yellow and green one instead.

That success came 20 years after Uruguay won the inaugural World Cup at a time they were considered the best team around, having won Olympic goldin 1924 and 1928 - both competitions considered a World Cup for "amateurs".

The current team is not expected to make it a hat-trick of triumphs by those outside the South American country but it would not be a shock to their countrymen if they were to come out on top.

"At home, people always expect us to win the World Cup every time we come to this competition," said captain Diego Lugano.

Can Uruguay do it a third time?

Luis Suarez celebrates followed by his team-mates

Highlights - Uruguay 2-1 South Korea

Since their unexpected victory in 1950, they have not exactly been blowing teams away. Their last semi-final appearance came in 1970, when they lost 3-1 to Brazil.

"We don't think about that," Diego Forlan, one of Uruguay's star players, told the BBC. "We need to keep working and take things step by step."

Forlan and fellow striker Luis Suarez have given the team something it has lacked in decades: two forwards capable of scaring defences and scoring goals.

Both players were among the top scorers in European football last season, with Forlan's goals helping Atletico Madrid win the Europa League.

But Uruguay are not only an attacking side. The work rate of the whole team has been outstanding in South Africa.

Oscar Tabarez's team did not concede a goal until they played South Korea in the last 16 and won their group with a draw against France and wins over Mexico and hosts South Africa.

This helped them avoid a clash with Argentina and provided - at least on paper - an easier route to the semi-finals, though they refuse to be complacent.

"We cannot think less of anyone. Sometimes the teams that seem less tough are the ones that give you a bigger fight," midfielder Alvaro Pereira told the BBC.

Ghana will prove a tougher rival than South Korea in Friday's quarter-final. As the only African team left, Milovan Rajevac's side will probably have the majority of a packed Soccer City behind them.

The Ghanaians will also have noticed the way Uruguay's stamina seemed to suffer in the second half of their last-16 match against the South Koreans. It was only a moment of brilliance from striker Suarez that sent them through.

The Africans have proved to be a much more physical side than many in this tournament - and they will present a big challenge to the South Americans on Friday.

If Uruguay come through that test, a possible encounter with Brazil beckons and another opportunity for an upset.



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see also
Uruguay defender out of Ghana tie
30 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Highlights: Uruguay 2-1 South Korea
26 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Suarez stunner ends South Korean hopes
26 Jun 10 |  World Cup 2010
Ghana unfazed by African pressure
01 Jul 10 |  World Cup 2010


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