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How far can Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani take Uruguay?

Wednesday 4th July 2018

Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani came into the tournament in Russia with a well-deserved reputation as a dangerous strike partnership. They have been the star men in an Uruguay team striving to match the nation's previous record in international competitions.

The tiny nation nestled between Argentina and Brazil hosted and won the first World Cup in 1930.  Los Charruas won it again in Brazil in 1950.  Since, the team has led the way in Copa Americas but come up empty in the World Cup. Fourth place finishes in Mexico 1970 and South Africa 2010 are the best they have managed.

It was in South Africa where Luis Suarez famously denied Ghana and Africa a historic semifinal berth. The erstwhile Ajax man turned goalkeeper when Dominic Adiyiah headed what should have been the winner for the West Africans in the game's last minute. With goalkeeper Fernando Muslera beaten, the ball was destined to hit the back of the net when Suarez palmed it away. 

He was given a straight red card but Asamoah Gyan went on to miss the resulting penalty. Suarez was seen celebrating on the sidelines and has repeatedly said he would do it all again when asked since. Ghana lost the match on penalties.

Other than that, Uruguay has had little to no say in the tournament. With Diego Forlan long since retired, Suarez and Cavani have kept the country's name in the limelight with their performances. Aided by their firepower, Uruguay finished second only to Brazil in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers.

The Barcelona man has been banging in goals for both club and country. His compatriot-in-crime has been doing same. Together they have made sure La Celeste is well represented in international competitions.

The former Liverpool player holds the record as Uruguay's top scorer with 52 goals. Cavani is not far behind. The Paris Saint-Germain forward has netted 45 in 104 appearances. His latest was the brace that sunk Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal. 

It must be said, however, that solidity at the back has made their job a lot easier. Just as it is upfront, Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez form a partnership that has been difficult to break. The pair files out for Atletico Madrid when not at their country's disposal, and have been instrumental to the Spanish side's recent success. 

The old man and his young protege bring that stability to the national team, proving an effective combination. Thanks to their efforts, Uruguay have conceded only one goal in the ongoing World Cup.

Even so, the real magic happens upfront. Suarez and Cavani are in masterful form. They have five of Uruguay's seven goals in the tournament. Gimenez and Russia's Denis Cheryshev have the others. 

No doubt, the duo's impact is massive, but the entire squad works hard on and off the ball. Oscar Tabarez's team has the right mix of youth and experience.

The question is whether it will be enough for La Celeste to march on to the final on July 15. With a stiffer test coming from France, they will be pushed to the very edge of their abilities. The star-studded French side will come ready for the kill.

But if there is any side in the competition well prepared for France, it is Uruguay. Antoine Griezmann comes face to face with teammates Godin and Gimenez, who know him inside and out. Kylian Mbappe's youthful energy will be matched by the latter. The hardworking Uruguayan midfield will aim to contain N'golo Kante and Paul Pogba.

That leaves Suarez and Cavani with the unenviable task of breaking down the French defence. It's within their ability, however. They are Uruguay's not-so-secret weapons. Sometimes, you know what's coming and still can't prevent it.

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Emmanuel Odey

Emmanuel is a freelance journalist who lives and breathes the round leather game. He is a contributor on several platforms. You can follow him on Twitter for more.

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