2019 Copa America: Uruguay considered among tournament favorites
Sandwiched in between Brazil and Argentina lies Uruguay, a country with a much smaller population that more than holds its own in football. And the Celeste are considered one of the favorites to lift this year's Copa America, thanks in large part to the work of their coach, Oscar Tabarez. CGTN's Joel Richards reports from Montevideo.
In Uruguay, seeing the national football team play at the famous Centenario Stadium is a rite of passage.
"I am going to enjoy this game with my son. It is first time we are seeing a match together, and I am very happy to be able to pass that love for the team and the country on to him, and this land where we were all born."
In a country of around three and a half million people, the success of the national team is a source of pride. Uruguay won the first World Cup at this stadium, in 1930. And in the past decade, the Celeste have also produced historic performances in the World Cup, and the Copa America. The team is now lead by stars like the strikers Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani, or captain Diego Godin, but the players are part of a long-term project that has been overseen by the coach Oscar Tabarez, and about whom the journalist Luis Inzaurralde has written a book.
LUIS INZAURRALDE AUTHOR OF 'THE TABAREZ LEGACY' "In terms of football itself, Tabarez brought aspects that, for other coaches, were not so important. He wanted players who are not only good with the ball at their feet, but he also wanted to strengthen the broader idea of personal development for the players."
Tabarez returned for a second spell as Uruguay coach in 2006, and has lead them to the World Cup semi-finals in 2010, and to victory in the 2011 Copa America. And in the next three years, South American sides like Uruguay face two Copa America competitions and 2022 World Cup qualification.
"He has a historic opportunity in the next three years to consolidate this project on the international stage and with success to establish Uruguay's process of national team transformation, and place it alongside the very elite."
Faced with the immediate challenge of this year's Copa America, Tabarez is not one to get ahead of himself.
OSCAR TABAREZ URUGUAY COACH "History is written once the tournament starts, while we are playing, and in every single game."
But supporters have good reason to be optimistic.
JOEL RICHARDS MONTEVIDEO "With 15 titles, Uruguay has won the Copa America more than any other nation, but as well as that tradition and that history, the squad this year boasts youth and experience, and it makes them one of the favorites to win in Brazil."
Uruguay may not boast the same resources as its neighbors Brazil or Argentina, but few will want to face Tabarez and his players at this Copa America. Joel Richards, CGTN, Montevideo.