FIFA WORLD CUP | URUGUAY TEMPTING LONG-SHOT PICK
Don’t look now, but the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Qatar, is just a month away. And, based on the chances, it’s anyone’s guess who will win the Jules Rimet Trophy on December 18. Brazil is the +400 favorite at the FIFA World Cup, but the five-time champions have plenty of competition at the top of the betting board, with eight other teams lying between +600 and 12/1.
While there is a good case to be made for any of those teams to win the tournament, there is a sleeper at 50/1 who demands your attention at the FIFA World Cup. Perhaps no country in world soccer punches above its weight more than Uruguay, a 3.5 million-person country nestled between Brazil (214 million) and Argentina (45.3 million). Despite being South America’s tenth-largest country, Uruguay has won 15 Copa America championships (tied with Argentina) and two FIFA World Cup (1930, 1950), making it one of six countries to have raised the Jules Rimet Trophy more than once.
Uruguay hasn’t won a Copa America championship since 2011, and La Celeste’s performance in World Cups over 70 years ago is immaterial to how they’ll do in 2022 at the FIFA World Cup, but it does indicate that Uruguay has the pedigree and structure in place to succeed in these forms. They’re doing something right, as shown by a semifinal appearance in 2010 and strong group-stage results in 2014 and 2018. (Uruguay won five of six matches in that span, beating England, Italy and Portugal).
Uruguay had been predictable for 15 years under Oscar Tabarez. They’d play a well-structured defensive approach that was difficult to break through and made them a live underdog. Tabarez’s favorite style at the FIFA World Cup, which saw Uruguay pack the centre of the field, dig in defensively, and wait for a moment of magic from Diego Forlan, Edison Cavani, or Luis Suarez, gave more skillful teams problems.
And Uruguay suited that style of play at the FIFA World Cup. La Celeste lacked the skill to compete with top teams, therefore they did all they could to make competitions a coin flip.
But now that Tabarez is gone, it seems like Uruguay’s strength has changed from the defensive third to the offensive third. Suarez and Cavani are still available and will play in Qatar, but Uruguay will rely on Fede Valverde (Real Madrid), Darwin Nunez (Liverpool), and Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham) to lead them to new heights while remaining committed to being difficult to play against.
On the field, Uruguay checks a handful of boxes for a sleeper pick at the FIFA World Cup betting. They’ve played together before, and there’s plenty of quality on this team, but the most tempting aspect of betting on La Celeste is their draw. Uruguay was assigned to Group H, which includes a weak favorite in Portugal as well as two teams that Uruguay should be able to defeat, South Korea and Ghana.
And, although Portugal is the favorite to win the group — important since the second-place team would almost certainly play Brazil in the Round of 16 – victory is not certain. The Portuguese are a high-ceiling, low-floor team, and there is a scenario in which Uruguay can finish first in Group H and set up a very winnable matchup with either Serbia, Switzerland, or Cameroon at the FIFA World Cup Betting.
Long shots do not win the World Cup, but there have been plenty of sleepers who have made significant contributions. Turkey (2002), South Korea (2002), and Uruguay (2010) all advanced to the semifinals, with Croatia finishing second in 2018. We’ll see a dark horse win the World Cup at some point, and the field’s openness lends itself perfectly to a wager on a gate-crasher.
Uruguay checks every box in terms of credible long shots.