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Uruguay Makes World Cup Finals After 12 Years - 2002-04-24

After having won football's premier event in 1930 and 1950, Uruguay returns to the World Cup finals for the first time in 12 years.

Uruguay is in Group A for first round play with defending champion France, Senegal and Denmark. Uruguay placed fifth in South American qualifying, but allowed the fewest goals of the 10 teams with only 13 yielded in 18 games.

Uruguay then had to win a two-game playoff against Australia to reach the World Cup in South Korea and Japan. International soccer commentator Derek Rae says not a lot has been said about the Uruguayans and their chances. "I see them being in a very interesting fight for second place in Group A, probably with Denmark. I do not think there is too much to separate the two sides. The Uruguayans, perhaps unfairly in the past, have been dismissed as cynical thugs, and most of that criticism tends to come from the European teams," said Mr. Rae.

Like other observers, Rae believes Uruguay's chances will rely heavily on forward Alvaro Recoba, who plays professionally for Italy's Inter Milan.

"The have a very good player in Alvaro Recoba, who has a tremendous left foot and can turn defenses inside and out, and a few other household names. Paolo Montero, a central defender who plays for Juventus in Italy, is among the top defenders in the world. So I wouldn't expect Uruguay to give away too many goals."

But Derek Rae does not think the Uruguayans' defense will carry them much beyond the World Cup's round of 16, but he believes they certainly have a chance of getting there with a second place finish in Group A.