Uruguay 2-0 Slovenia
4 June 2014
Estadio Centenario, Montevideo
Scorers: Cavani, Stuani

Unofficial Football World Champions Uruguay will take the UFWC title into the World Cup Finals in Brazil. A 2-0 win over challengers Slovenia saw La Celeste retain the unofficial title, and remain genuine contenders for the official title. This was Uruguay’s fifth consecutive match as UFWC champions, and the country’s 20th UFWC title match win overall. Uruguay have won the World Cup twice, in 1930 and 1950. Could they do it for a third time in 2014?

This confidence-boosting victory suggested they have a chance, and proved they can score goals without Luis Suarez, sidelined following knee surgery. As expected, coach Oscar Tabarez brought in the reliable veteran Diego Forlan to play alongside Edinson Cavani up front. Both played the full 90 minutes, indicating that they will be Tabarez’s preferred partnership at the World Cup if Suarez fails to recover. Now playing in Japan for Cerezo Osaka, 35-year-old Forlan won the Golden Ball during the last World Cup as the 2010 tournament’s best player. In the absence of Suarez, he may well take centre stage once again.

This was certainly an experienced Uruguay side. In defence, Diego Godin returned to play alongside captain Diego Lugano. Martin Caceres and Maxi Pereira played at full-back, and Fernando Muslera retained his place in goal. With Walter Gargano and Egidio Arevalo in the centre of midfield, Cristian Rodriguez and Gaston Ramirez played wide.

Ramirez of Southampton was the only current England-based player in the team, although Liverpool’s Sebastian Coates (who has been on-loan at Nacional) did come off the bench in the latter stages of the match. Lugano was recently released by West Bromwich Albion, making him a rare international team captain who does not have a club (matched elsewhere tonight by England’s Frank Lampard, who captained his country against Ecuador having been recently released by Chelsea).

As is their way, Uruguay made a slow but solid start. Possession was even, and Slovenia managed a few shots. The big crowd inside the Estadio Centenario became impatient, and chanted the injured Suarez’s name. But in the 37th minute Uruguay got their breakthrough, created by the Liverpool man’s replacement, and scored by his strike partner, as Forlan chipped an angled ball into the box, and Cavani met it with an unstoppable close-range header.

Tabarez made four changes at half-time, including resting the returning Godin, replaced by Jose Maria Gimenez, and bringing in Christian Stuani for Ramirez. Stuani, who scored Uruguay’s winner against Northern Ireland at the weekend, made a strong claim to be included in the starting eleven at the World Cup, playing on the right wing, but getting forward into the box. And he scored Uruguay’s second goal, after Cavani prevented keeper Samir Handanovic from grabbing a loose ball, allowing Stuani to drive it into the net.

The match finished 2-0, and afterwards Tabarez praised his team’s second half performance in particular. ‘The Master’ also said he had ‘great hopes’ of Luis Suarez being fit for the World Cup, and wouldn’t rule out his participation in Uruguay’s opening match against Costa Rica on 14 June. Uruguay will also play England and Italy during the tournament’s group stage.

So the UFWC is going to the World Cup. We’ll bring you previews and other general excitement right here over the next few days. For starters, you can check out our series of UFWC World Cup Classics. In the meantime you can keep up to date by following us on on Twitter or Facebook.

(Note, this match was played on the evening of 4 June in Uruguay, which was the early morning of 5 June in the UK.)

Find out everything you need to know about the Unofficial Football World Championships ahead of the World Cup with the official UFWC handbook, Unofficial Football World Champions, which contains a complete history of the unofficial competition, and its crossovers with the official World Cup. The brand new 2014 edition is out now.

New UFWC book

World_Cup_2014_Brazil_Argetina_250x250Uruguay continue to look like solid contenders and are scoring goals – and Tabarez is confident Luis Suarez will play at the World Cup. But can they win the tournament for the third time in the country’s history? Coral are currently offering very tempting odds of 28/1 for Uruguay to win the 2014 World Cup. And they’re also running a money back offer on World Cup outright bets if Brazil or Argentina win the tournament. So even if Uruguay don’t win you can get your money back. T&Cs apply, see the Coral website.

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