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Hello everyone! There’s a lot to talk about this week; La Celeste begins the post-Suarez era with a pair of games in the Far East, and the Uruguayan title race heats up. Let’s get to it!


Rising Sun


Josema Giménez (#2) celebrates his game-winning header against South Korea, while fellow UMNT/Atlético Madrid defender Diego Godín (#3) wonders when his life became the plot of Single White Female.


Uruguay started off the post-World Cup friendly season with games against Japan and South Korea, two of the strongest sides in the Asian Football Confederation (for whatever that’s worth). As you know from previous Charrúa Reports, coach Oscar Tabárez included several new faces in his list of reserved players, and a few of them got to wear the sky blue for the first time: Camilo Mayada, Diego Rolán, and Mathías Corujo all saw significant action over the last five days and proved worthy of El Maestro’s trust. As far as the games are concerned, the UMNT acquitted itself well, winning both games and for the most part showing superiority over their rivals.

The first game took place last Friday in Japan. Uruguay was the better team throughout thanks to a dominating midfield performance, and went ahead in the 33rd minute when Edinson Cavani took a Rolán pass six yards in front of the goal and slotted past the diving keeper after a deflection off a defender’s leg. This was Cavani’s 23rd goal in 64 matches with La Celeste, good for 8th place all time, and the 100th goal for the Cavani-Forlán-Suárez trio. In the 70th minute, Abel “La Joya (the Jewel)” Hernández, who had replaced Rolán a few minutes earlier, was Johnny-on-the-spot after a powerful long shot by Nico Lodeiro, putting home the rebound for the second Uruguay goal.

It was on to South Korea for a Monday match-up of 2010 World Cup second round rivals. Early on, Uruguay was clearly superior in this one as well but had trouble breaking the South Korean defense. Abel Hernández had most of the clear chances in this one, and had a goal correctly disallowed for offside, but the big news was the main squad debut of Giorgian De Arrascaeta, whose call-up to La Celeste almost caused the entire Uruguayan first division tournament to be postponed for a week (see last week’s column for details). Giorgian came into the game 61 minutes in and immediately took over, creating several clear chances for his teammates. In the 69th minute he was fouled on the left side of the attack, right next to the endline; he took the free kick himself and found fellow young buck José María Giménez, whose header beat the flailing keeper and gave Uruguay a deserved lead.

If you’ve watched enough Uruguay games, then you know what comes next: Uruguay tried to slow the game down to maintain the advantage and gave South Korea control of the ball, which led to several hairy situations for the Uruguayan defense in the last 15 minutes of the game. In fact, it appeared as though the Koreans would get a chance to tie the game when the referee called for a penalty kick in the second minute of added time after all-world defender Diego Godín decided to punch a rival player in the face while defending a corner kick (must have learned it from Ronaldo). The Uruguayans protested and pointed at the linesman, who confirmed that the ball had left the field of play before landing in the Uruguayan penalty area; the ref consulted with his colleague and waved off the penalty, giving Uruguay a goal kick instead, and shortly after that the game ended with a 1-0 Uruguay win.

Overall Uruguay showed that they are still a force to be reckoned with, dominating two second-tier teams in their home soil, but the more important development is that it did so while breaking in some sorely needed young talent. The kids did well and showed that they can adapt to the Tabárez scheme (even though the team was coached by assistant Celso Otero because El Maestro is still without a new contract); we’ll see what happens in November when the team faces its next round of opponents.


Back in the Race


Diego Arismendi
Former jailbird Diego Arismendi celebrates his second minute goal against River Plate, but still remembers to check Leandro Barcia and Santiago Romero for shivs.(Tenfield Digital)


It was a good weekend for everyone’s favorite Uruguayan club team, Nacional. On Saturday, Peñarol lost points for the first time this season, tying Defensor 0-0. After all the back and forth about the national team call-ups, Defensor managed to survive the absence of De Arrascaeta, even though left-behind Peñarol forward Jonathan Rodríguez recovered from his injury in time to play. Rodríguez re-aggravated his ankle injury in this game and may miss a crucial Copa Sudamericana clash against Deportivo Cali, so maybe they should have just let him go to Japan. Sunday morning it was Racing’s turn to defend the tournament lead, but they could not get past Juventud. The 1-1 tie means there are now three leaders, as El Tanque, Nacional’s only blemish so far this season, reached the top with a 2-0 win against Rentistas. Yes, the tank beat the renters. Just accept the ridiculous team names for now. I haven’t even mentioned second division side Colón.

All of this meant that Nacional could close to within a point of first place if they managed to beat River Plate. The Darseneros (wharf rats) are always dangerous, and Nacional would be facing them with a brand new defense after losing two starters to injury and another to complete and absolute incompetence, but the Tricolores pulled off a huge 3-1 win by taking advantage of the long ball. Two minutes in, a through ball to Iván Alonso almost resulted in the opening goal. A River defender cleared the ball in front of the goal sending it right to Diego “Mama” Arismendi. Arismendi, finally back from his battles with the Uruguayan legal system, controlled the ball with his chest, let it bounce once, and unleashed a wicked shot from about 40 yards out that sneaked past the diving goalie and into the goal. Half an hour later, new midfield signing Gonzalo Porras, who is having a great start to the season so far, took a corner kick from the left side. He sent a low, short pass to the edge of the box where Alonso was unmarked, because what could possibly go wrong when you ignore the league’s leading scorer inside your own penalty area. Alonso received the ball with his back to the goal and simply sent it backwards as Porras was looping around; Porras’s first touch was a strong kick up into the opposite corner of the goal, and Nacional had doubled their lead. River pulled closer halfway through the second half on a goal by former Nacional fan favorite Santiago “El Morro” García, but just a couple of minutes after that, Alonso put the game out of reach with his 6th goal in 4 games, good enough to keep him all alone on top of the scorers table. So now there are three teams in the lead, with Nacional just one point behind. It looks to be an exciting season.


Odds and Ends



In other quick news, no, Tabárez still does not have a contract, but the Federation is into its 4th month without a legitimately elected President, so that’s just par for the course. There will be another attempt at choosing a new governing board this Thursday; hopefully current interim head Wilson Valdez gets that last vote he needs to end this charade, and then makes it official with El Maestro. Also, Gastón Ramírez is joining Abel Hernández at Hull City after a last minute transfer; hopefully the two young attackers will find some chemistry that can carry over to La Celeste. And West Ham United player Diego Poyet (pictured), the son of El Bolso favorite Gus Poyet, has officially declined an offer to join England’s under-20 national team. Diego, who grew up in England during his dad’s long Premier League career, is nonetheless holding out for a call from La Celeste, one which may come as soon as next February’s South American youth tournament (to be held in Uruguay!). This is great news: it’s always good to beat the English in anything, plus, as Jobu pointed out to me, the team is losing a lot of Diegos to retirement and needs to replenish its supply.

That’s all for this week, see you next time!

About El Bolso

El Bolso is Uruguay’s foremost soccer-fan-in-exile, a true authority on the Celeste and its favored son, the Club Nacional de Football. He believes in precision passing, tireless marking, and strong finishing, and is not above the occasional slide tackle from behind when the situation calls for it.