Uruguay vs Northern Ireland
30 May 2014
Estadio Centenario, Montevideo
Following on from our first article on the UFWC title match between Uruguay and Northern Ireland, and now the squads have been announced, here’s the second part of our preview of the big game, which takes place at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo next Friday, 30 May. Uruguay are the current UFWC champions, having most recently held off the challenge of Austria in March. Northern Ireland are contesting the UFWC for the first time since 1997, when they led Germany 1-0 in Belfast – but went on to lose 3-1.
We’ll start with Northern Ireland. There are a few regulars missing from manager Michael O’Neill’s squad, with Martin Paterson and Jamie Ward pulling out this week. Most notably, Jonny Evans of Manchester United is not there, nor is Kyle Lafferty, who has just won promotion to Serie A with Palermo in Italy. West Brom players Chris Brunt and Gareth McAuley are also absent. Other notable absentees are goalkeeper Alan Mannus of St Johnstone, who recently played in the Scottish Cup Final and won, and Alex Bruce of Hull City, who recently played in the English FA Cup Final and lost.
Northern Ireland’s experienced players include Roy Carroll of Olympiakos, and Aaron Hughes, currently at Queens Park Rangers. Both players have been representing their country since the late 1990s. Carroll, who won this season’s Greek Super League with his club, is expected to start the match. Hughes, who has 88 international caps, is back in the fold after coming out of retirement. Chris Baird, now of Burnley, is another player with plenty of experience. Steve Davis is a big game player, and was present in the Northern Ireland team that beat England and Spain in the last decade. Davis has had a good season for Southampton, and will captain the Ulstermen.
Michael O’Neill’s squad also features five uncapped players, including Liverpool’s Ryan McLaughlin, Portsmouth keeper Trevor Carson, Fulham defender Liam Donnelly, Doncaster Rovers’ Luke McCullough, and Dundee United’s Paul Paton. Paton recently played in the Scottish Cup Final. McCullough’s call up is surprising as he wasn’t even playing for Doncaster much in a season where they got relegated to League One.
Northern Ireland also have a player currently playing in the Americas – Jonny Steele, who plies his trade for the New York Red Bulls, and could be in line for a surprise start in midfield. Attack-wise, Northern Ireland only have four named forwards in the squad at present due to pull outs. Billy McKay seems to be on good form, having scored 22 times for Inverness Caledonian Thistle last season.
This is the first game of a two-match South American tour which will also see the Northern Irish face Chile in Valparaiso on 4 June. Michael O’Neill will use the two matches as preparation for Northern Ireland’s upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers, which kick off against Hungary in September.
Uruguay, meanwhile, will be without Luis Suarez, who underwent minor knee surgery on Wednesday. Arguably Uruguay’s most important player, he may also miss the World Cup, although the AUF, Uruguay’s football association, say ‘his participation has not been ruled out’. Suarez had a tremendous season with Liverpool, finishing top scorer in the Premier League and winning the European golden boot (shared with Ronaldo). Suarez also bagged the Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award, becoming the first non-European to win the accolade.
The 25-man Uruguay squad for this match will need to be whittled down to 23 ahead of Brazil 2014, so all their danger men and stalwarts will be hoping to prove a point to their boss Oscar Tabarez ahead of their World Cup opener with Costa Rica.
Even without Suarez, Uruguay are blessed with Cavani and Forlan in attack. Edinson Cavani scored 25 league and cup goals for French champions Paris St Germain this season, including two goals in his club’s Coupe de la Ligue Final victory. Diego Forlan is now 35, and is expected to play in his third World Cup. He holds the record number of caps for Uruguay (107) and needs little introduction. In a career that has seen him play for Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid, Forlan now plays for Cerezo Osaka in Japan.
In goal, Fernando Muslera is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Muslera has 60 caps to his name and now holds the number one spot for Galatasaray. Northern Ireland haven’t scored an away goal in a friendly for almost eight years, so the Ulstermen will need to be at their very best to register one here.
Defensively, Uruguay boast two players from Spanish La Liga champions Atletico Madrid – Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez. Diego Lugano is the captain of La Celeste (“The Sky Blue Ones”) and has 92 caps. Although he could potentially be lifting the World Cup trophy in a few weeks’ time, Lugano is currently a free agent, having been released by his former club West Bromwich Albion. With a few South American based players in their squad, the Uruguayans will use the likes of Alvaro Pereira, Sebastian Eguren and Nicolas Lodeiro to their advantage against the travelling Northern Irish squad, some of whom are travelling to South America for the first time.
Uruguay and Northern Ireland have met three times before. The Ulstermen have won twice on their home patch in Belfast, including when the legendary George Best played in a 3-0 win in 1964. A Kevin Wilson goal won it for the Northern Irish in 1990. That match was also a World Cup warm up for Uruguay, who went on to reach the last 16 at Italia 90. More recently, the teams met in the USA in a 2006 friendly, Uruguay beating a youthful Northern Irish team 1-0.
Uruguay are the current Copa America holders, and finished fourth at the last World Cup. Northern Ireland qualified twice for the World Cup in the 1980s, reaching the last 12 at Espana 82 after beating the hosts 1-0, and finishing third in a tough group at Mexico 86 – the last time they qualified. Uruguay have won the World Cup twice, most recently their famous 2-1 win over Brazil in the Maracana in 1950. They will be aiming to win for a third time in 2014.
This UFWC title match is likely to provide us with goals, as neither Uruguay nor Northern Ireland have been involved in a goalless draw during their World Cup qualifiers (although the Northern Irish did draw 0-0 in Cyprus in a recent friendly). Michael O’Neill will have his team up for the occasion, but do they have what it takes to muster a decent result against Suarez and company on the Uruguayan’s home soil? And can ‘wee Northern Ireland’ defy the odds and win the UFWC? It seems unlikely given the strength of the two squads, but you never know.
Kick-off for the match is 00:30 BST. For viewers in the UK, the match will be shown live by the BBC, via the Red Button on the BBC One NI or BBC Two NI channels. It will also be broadcast online via the bbc.co.uk/sportni website. We’ll also provide coverage right here, with a full match report appearing on the site shortly after the game. In the meantime, you can keep up to date by following us on on Twitter or Facebook.
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama), Rodrigo Munoz (Libertad)
Defenders: Maximiliano Pereira (Benfica), Diego Lugano (West Bromwich Albion), Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez (both Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Nacional), Martin Caceres (Juventus), Jorge Fucile (Porto)
Midfielders: Alejandro Silva (Lanus), Alvaro Gonzalez (Lazio), Alvaro Pereira (Sao Paulo), Walter Gargano (Parma), Egidio Arevalo Rios (Morelia), Diego Perez (Bologna), Sebastian Eguren (Palmeiras), Cristian Rodriguez (Atletico Madrid), Gaston Ramirez (Southampton), Nicolas Lodeiro (Botafogo)
Forwards: Luis Suarez (Liverpool, injured), Edinson Cavani (Paris St Germain), Abel Hernandez (Palermo), Diego Forlan (Cerezo Osaka), Christian Stuani (Espanyol)
Northern Ireland squad:
Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Olympiacos), Michael McGovern (Falkirk), Trevor Carson (Portsmouth).
Defenders: Daniel Lafferty (Burnley), Ryan McLaughlin (Liverpool), Aaron Hughes (QPR), Luke McCullough (Doncaster), Liam Donnelly (Fulham), Chris Baird (Burnley).
Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Oliver Norwood (Huddersfield Town), Shane Ferguson (Newcastle Utd), Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), Sammy Clingan (Kilmarnock), Jonny Steele (New York Red Bulls), Paul Paton (Dundee Utd), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town).
Forwards: Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Billy McKay (Inverness CT), Dean Shiels (Rangers), Josh Magennis (Aberdeen)