Jobu introduces us to fellow countryman Cristian Rodríguez.
It’s been a while since I’ve introduced you to one of my countrymen. With Uruguay now a virtual lock to make the World Cup (they play the Uruguayan leg of the home and home playoff against Jordan on Wednesday after beating Jordan 5-0 in Jordan last Wednesday), you guys really need to meet more of my people. Today, you’re going to meet a guy that I think has really come on strong this past year or two, and I think will be a difference maker come Brazil. Meet Cristian Rodríguez!
Like most other Uruguayan fútbol players, Rodriguez has a ridiculous/tremendous nickname. You can call him “Cebolla,” the spanish word for onion. He was given that nickname while at Peñarol of the Uruguayan Primera, because it was said he was so good that he made defenses cry. He made his pro debut with Peñarol (my hated enemy) as a teenager in 2002, and helped them to a league championship in 2003. He, like most other up and coming Uruguayan stars, was eventually transferred overseas, although Peñarol didn’t receive anything in return for his services (yet another reason not to root for them). Cristian started his Euro career with Paris Saint-Germaine, where he played for two seasons before being loaned to S.L. Benfica of Portugal, where he became one of the club’s most important players and was eventually bought by F.C. Porto in 2008. He was in Porto until May of 2012, when he signed with his current team, Atlético Madrid.
As far as the National squad is concerned, Rodríguez made his international debut in a friendly against Mexico when he was just 18 years old. He has since represented Uruguay in two Copa Ámerica tournaments (including Uruguay’s record 15th Copa victory in 2011). Unfortunately, he has yet to were the sky blue in a World Cup game. Head coach Oscar Tabárez didn’t take him to South Africa four years ago, as some on field antics led to a four match suspension and a stint in the Tabárez doghouse. He has been logging a lot of minutes of late, however, as injuries to some key players, including South Africa 2010 Golden Ball winner Diego Forlán, have allowed him to start, and stay on the field. Frankly, I think the kid has earned the spot over the aging Forlán, even if he’s healthy. Forlán will be better able to help in small stints, so having a legitimate forward like Rodríguez available will be key.
While he sometimes seems to struggle to finish shots (tripping over his own feet, not being able to square balls up in transition), he possesses a lot of speed and seems to have a knack for being open in front of the net on rebounds. Perhaps a sign of good things to come, he’s managed to score in Uruguay’s last two games. The first was the final qualifying game in October against Argentina, and he also netted a goal in the first leg of the playoff with Jordan. If he can continue to improve his game in this manner, I think he can really be a big help for Uruguay come June. The world knows all about Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, so Uruguay might need guys like Rodriguez and Maxi Pereira (whom you met a while back) to knock in a shot or two from time to time.
I’ll say it now. If Uruguay matches, or improves upon, their amazing fourth place finish in 2010, Rodriguez will play his part in the tournament, that’s for sure.
Featured image courtesy of: Tenfield.com
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