International Friendly: Uruguay vs Uzbekistan – Lineups, Previews and Prediction
South American heavyweights Uruguay meet Uzbekistan in Montevideo for a World Cup warm-up fixture.
00:10 BST, Friday 8 June, Estadio Centenario (Montevideo, Uruguay)
Uzbekistan makes the long journey from Central Asia to the Uruguayan capital for the home sides’ final warm-up game before heading to Russia.
Óscar Tabárez’s side have played far fewer games than their rivals in the customary early June warm-up slots, and this will be their only game before the tournament starts.
The Uruguayans, though, took part in the China Cup back in March, with games against Wales and the Czech Republic, both of which they won.
Uzbeks’ schedule has also been a little light of late, having only played three times in 2018; they are winless in six matches. Victory for the Central Asian nation last came back in August, with a 5-0 win over local rivals Kyrgyzstan.
Qualification for the World Cup was relatively comfortable for Uruguay though they had to ensure they beat Bolivia at home in the final round of fixtures to avoid dropping into the uncertainty of the inter-continental playoff.
Finishing second best to runaway winners Brazil, Uruguay will now compete in their 14th finals and their fourth in a row.
For Uzbekistan, the fight is always harder. Typically advancing to the third and final round in Asia’s AFC region, Uzbekistan fell short of an automatic qualifying position after finishing fourth in Group A.
After ten home-and-away ties, the top two sides from both groups get a ticket to the finals, which went to Iran, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
The two third-place teams then play a home-and-away playoff to earn the right to face the fourth-placed side in the CONCACAF region.
Uzbekistan were pipped to third, rather remarkably, by Syria (who were then beaten over two legs by Australia).
With only the single friendly to get up to speed before the tournament begins next Thursday, boss Tabarez may well elect a familiar side for this one.
Main front man, Luis Suarez, has only scored once since Uruguay booked their ticket to Russia, but after another infamous biting incident back in 2014 on Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez will be eager to get into the World Cup groove again with a solid performance here.
Uzbekistan manager Timur Kapadze fielded an inexperienced lineup for their last friendly at the end of May away at Iran.
24-year-old Jaloliddin Masharipov was the most senior player in the squad, with only 13 caps. The entire last squad plays domestic football in Uzbekistan.
Veteran and current captain Odil Ahmedov may push for a return to the squad. Ahmedov plays for Chinese Super League side, Shanghai SIPG.
Key Battle: Luis Suarez (Uruguay) vs Dostonbek Tursunov (Uzbekistan)
It’s highly likely that most, if not all, of the Uruguayan squad, will hear their opponent’s names for the first time when they come together in the early hours of Friday morning.
In the friendly defeat to Iran, the Uzbek back four had six caps between them, they are a vastly inexperienced side.
Should Tursunov keep his place, Suarez will lick his lips at the chance to get his engine revving once more against such a youthful defence.
Suarez has 50 goals in 97 appearances for his nation.
How far will Uruguay go in Russia?
With all due respect to the Uzbeks, Suarez and company may not see this friendly as a suitable test or preparation challenge before jetting off for the World Cup.
Much of the talk and pressure will be heaped, as it so often is, onto the shoulders of the Barcelona forward and teammate, Edinson Cavani. With the hugely experienced Diego Godin leading a usually resolute defence, the Uruguayans will be expected to carry some threat in Russia.
Having not played a fixture since the end of March, there will be some concerns, surely, over the cohesion and gel of the squad. There may well be an element of ‘rust’ to their play, but can they shake it off in time?
Prediction: Uruguay 2-0 Uzbekistan
While the potential is there for the scoreline to run away from Uzbekistan, Uruguay may well be slightly hampered by the lack of game time together.
Tabarez will ideally look to secure a comfortable victory here, but it will be the performance that will matter more than the result, though a defeat won’t do pre-World Cup confidence any good.
Suarez and Cavani will be itching to get on the scoresheet and find their shooting boots before things start for real for Uruguay only seven days later.
The form book doesn’t make for good reading for Uzbekistan, so Uruguay should be expected to do the job here.
Can Uzbekistan cause a shock against Uruguay? Let us know below.