An extra burden on Uruguay shoulders

Last Updated 05 July 2010, 16:49 IST

After all the talk of Europe's demise and South America's dominance in the early stage of the World Cup, Uruguay are surprisingly now the region's only representative in the semifinals. The other three teams are European.

"Above all, we will play for our country, our people. But after that we know we are representing our continent as well. It is a huge source of pride," said striker Edinson Cavani.

Underlining Uruguay's extraordinary moment in the spotlight -- it is their first time in a semifinal since 1970 -- several hundred journalists crammed into a Johannesburg hotel conference room to interview the players after a training session.  Uruguay face Netherlands for a place in the final.

"We are prepared for an almighty battle and, if God wants, another step towards our great dream," captain and defender Diego Lugano, who is a doubt for the semifinal due to a knee injury, said in the midst of a multi-lingual crush.

"Uruguay's history demands us to be world champions."  With a population of just 3.5 million, Uruguay have gone further at this World Cup than regional heavyweights Brazil and Argentina, both beaten by European teams in the quarterfinals.

"Even though they are out, they don't stop being big powers, good teams. But I think Uruguay has deserved to be where it is," Cavani said, adding that his team respected the Dutch hugely.

"They are a team who play well, who move the ball well. Tactically, they are near-perfect."  Long-haired and lanky striker Sebastian Abreu, affectionately nicknamed "El Loco" (The Crazy One) by fans, also praised Netherlands but said Uruguay "humbly" fancied their chances. "History drives us on," he said.

While most Latin Americans will no doubt be cheering on Uruguay, some of the players were surprised to see Mexican fans backing Ghana against them in the quarterfinal.

"As we were representing Latin America, we would expect them to support us, but the other day there were plenty of Mexicans supporting Ghana," Abreu said. "You don't understand such things, but anyway, thanks to those who were happy for us."

(Published 05 July 2010, 16:49 IST)

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