As we countdown to Russia 2018, we take a look at all 32 teams and suggest a reason to back them. Today is the turn of Uruguay.


Oscar Tabárez will lead Uruguay into his fourth World Cup as manager and the 71-year-old in his second spell in charge has coached one national team for more games than anyone else.

But his combined 14 years in charge, which included a Copa America win in 2011 and a World Cup semi-final appearance in 2010, isn’t the most remarkable thing about ‘El Maestro’.

Tabárez is dealing with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a non-fatal disorder where the body’s immune system attacks parts of the nervous system, which leads to weakness and sometimes paralysis in the arms and legs.

The news of his illness first became public in 2016 when he was spotted taking team training in a mobility scooter and since then he has appeared at matches using crutches.

At the time he said: "I will continue - at least until the results say otherwise. When you are coach you know you are judged by the results.

Suarez celebrates scoring for his country

"My illness, I have talked about with who I need to talk about it with. There are days where I am better than others. There are some days where I can move on my own, some others no. Still, nothing changes with my job, or dealing with players.

"I’ve learned that when any type of challenge comes along, the best thing you can do is to face it head on and try to overcome it. Later, time and circumstances will tell let you know if it’s possible or not."

Tabárez is a hugely popular figure a home in Uruguay and amongst his squad of players. Of the group he will bring to Russia, he gave international debuts to every one of them bar veterans Diego Godin, Maxi Pereira and Cristian Rodriquez.

His term in charge probably reached its high point over 2010 and ’11, when they made the last four of the World Cup in South Africa and won the South American championship.

They did so with a golden generation of players and their time has most likely been on gone, which is reflected in their outsider odds this time around.

 Edinson Cavani, left, during a 2018 friendly against Wales

But they can still pack a punch, with experienced players like Godin of Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint Germain’s Edinson Cavani and Barcelona superstar Luis Suarez.

One of Tabárez’s main tasks will be trying to ensure that goal-machine Suarez doesn’t end up getting himself suspended for a third World Cup running.

Eight years ago he missed the semi-final defeat to Netherlands after his red card for a late hand ball on the line in the semi-final win over Ghana. Asamoah Gyan missed the resulting penalty kick and the game went to a penalty shoot-out, won by Uruguay.

He followed that up with a bite on Giorgio Chiellini against Italy in Brazil last time out, earning himself a four-month ban.

Uruguay are solid at the back and spectacular up front. It’s in the middle of the field that they need a little something extra, that spark that can help Cavani and Suarez do damage.

Drawn in Group A alongside hosts Russia, Saudi Arabia and Mo Salah-inspired Egypt, the team sitting 21 in the FIFA world rankings will fancy their chances of progressing to the knock-out rounds.

They’ve won the World Cup twice, the first edition in their own back yard in 1930 and 20 years later in Brazil.

Goalkeepers: Martin Campana (Independiente), Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama)

Defenders: Martin Caceres (Lazio), Sebastian Coates (Sporting), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Maximiliano Pereira (Porto), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Guillermo Varela (Penarol)

Midfielders: Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Diego Laxalt (Genoa), Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matias Vecino (Inter), Jonathan Urretaviscaya (Monterrey)

Forwards: Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta Vigo), Luis Suarez (Barcelona), Cristhian Stuani (Girona)

You can follow the FIFA World Cup from 14 June with RTÉ. Live blogs of every game on RTÉ.ie and the News Now App, with 56 games live on RTÉ television and all 64 games available on the RTÉ Player.