MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay – Uruguay is hoping to use the Confederations Cup to get back on track.
The defending South American champions, who also finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup, have been disappointing since winning the Copa America two years ago in Argentina and eventually soaring to No. 2 in the FIFA rankings.
Leading the way for Uruguay is Luis Suarez, who has been going through his own tough time since moving to Liverpool.
Suarez was banned for 10 matches in April after biting Chelsea defender Branisalv Ivanovic, forcing him to miss the last four games of the English Premier League. The layoff could take a toll on his match fitness when Uruguay opens against Spain on Sunday in the northeastern city of Recife.
That’s not good news for coach Oscar Tabarez, whose team has been a major disappointment in World Cup qualifying. Uruguay trails South America’s top three teams — Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia — and is in danger of failing to qualify automatically for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“I think Spain is the toughest opponent,” Tabarez said, not surprising anyone who was listening. “You only have to look at their results in the last few years and the way they’ve been playing.”
But Uruguay also has the potential to be overpowering.
Along with Suarez, the team features Edinson Cavani, the top scorer in Italy this season playing for Napoli. Uruguay also has striker Diego Forlan, who was named the best player at the 2010 World Cup, and has had a strong season for Brazilian club Internacional.
Despite that attacking trio, Tabarez is trying to figure out what’s gone wrong. After beating Peru 4-2 a year ago in World Cup qualifying, Uruguay failed to win the next six, including losses to Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Colombia.
The team plays at Venezulea on Tuesday — only five days before opening in the Confederations Cup — with a chance to end the bad run. Unfortunately, Suarez is banned from the match.
“We’ve never gone through such a long period of not getting results,” Tabarez said after losing to Chile 2-0 in late March. “We have to figure out what has happened to us, and we have to look at ourselves — each of us.”
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