They were the early stars of the game, while the British refused to be part of FIFA, disliking 'international influence on the game' they had invented, Uruguay's players rose to stardom in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics. The country won both tournaments, playign a game unheard of and unseen in Europe: unlike the European teams, with their emphasis on physical strength, Uruguay played it's football with short passes, quick combinations. This made them virtually unbeatable in the pre-war era.
An illustration of their legendary status is the story of an old Amsterdam grandma, that went to the Amsterdam 1928 Olympic stadium, mentioning she 'wanted to see Uruguay play before she died.'
They were the natural favourites at the first ever FIFA World Cup, in 1930, in which they beat Argentina 4-2 in the finals. A few European teams didn't appear in this first World Cup though and Uruguay reciprocated this by boycotting both the 1934 and 1938 editions. In 1950 they were back though, beating Brazil on it's home ground in a legendary final.
The question remains.. can they do it again? Unlike in the 1930's, tonight's Uruguay is facing an opponent known to be more technical and swifter in it's combinations. They are now the defending team, grinding their way to narrow victories with tough, dreadfully tough play. Their appearance in the 2010 World Cup finals would be a great upset to some, maybe a greater upset even than their 1950 win in Brazil.
Can they do it? Will Uruguay play in a World Cup finals after 60 years of absence?
We will see tonight...