World Cup titles: 2 (1930, 1950)
Dating back many years, the small country of Uruguay has a rich tradition of success in soccer. Uruguay was the first team to win the World Cup in 1930, setting the whole parade in motion. However, they didn’t compete in 1934 or 1938.
In 1950, twenty years after their first championship, they gained the title again by defeating Brazil on Brazilian soil in front of approximately 200,000 live spectators. For both teams it was a big game, obviously, but for Brazil, it was the game for the time. They hadn’t won a title yet, and they felt something special happening with the game at large; there was something brewing in Brazil, and they knew it. Uruguay had other plans, and they put Brazil in their place, shutting them down and shutting up the crowd. From there on, for Brazilians, the game became known as “the phantom of ‘50.” Uruguay won the final by a score of 2-1. As a result, they were on top of the world. There had been four World Cups. Italy had two, and Uruguay had two. And, to date, that would be the last time Uruguay would win a World Cup
In 1954, after beating England in the quarterfinals and losing to Hungary in the semifinals, Uruguay lost to Austria in the consolation match, taking fourth place overall. For the 1958 World Cup, they didn’t compete. In 1962, they lost out in group play. Things were better in 1966, as they made the quarterfinals.
World Cup 1970 was even better, as they took fourth place. They beat the USSR in the quarterfinals before losing to Brazil—the eventual champions—in the semis. For the third-place match, they lost to West Germany. They weren’t very fortunate in 1974, losing out in group play. For 1978 and 1982, they didn’t qualify. In 1986, led by Enzo Francescoli, they were eliminated in the round of 16 by Argentina.
In 1990, they fell to hosts Italy during the round of 16 in Rome in front of over 73,000 fans. For 1994 and 1998, they didn’t qualify. Back in the thick of things in 2002, they failed to get out of group play. It was back to the drawing board in 2006, as they didn’t qualify.
Then things were looking good again in 2010. Led by the crafty, goal-scoring magic of Luis Suarez and the brilliant creative touch of Diego Forlan, they took first place in their group over Mexico, South Africa, and a disjointed French team. In the round of 16, they defeated South Korea 2-1 with goals from Suarez. In the quarters, they met a talented side from Ghana, who they defeated in penalty kicks. However, they were bested by the Netherlands in the semifinals, which led to another loss to Germany in the thirdplace match, giving them fourth overall. In 2014, Uruguay lost to Colombia in the round of 16 in the Maracana Stadium—the very place they earned a title back in 1950.