Appointed coach last June, “El Loco” transformed the Céleste, victorious over Brazil and Argentina in the space of a month.
“El Loco” is already driving Montevideo crazy. At 68, Marcelo Bielsa has put on his coach’s costume again by taking charge of Uruguay last May, after a last successful experience at Leeds (2018-2022) on the Premier League side. Having worked on the benches of Argentina (1998-2004) and Chile (2007-2011), the former coach of Olympique de Marseille is enjoying a successful return to South America. To the point that Celeste, led by a brilliant generation (Valverde, Nunez, Ugarte, etc.) erts itself as a serious candidate for final victory in the Copa America next summer.
Historic successes against the two ogres of the continent
A technician with an invaluable aura, Bielsa has been able throughout his career to impose a style on his teams in a timely manner. The Uruguayan selection has been no exception to the rule since June 15, the date of the first match managed by the new coach against Nicaragua (4-1 friendly victory). In seven meetings with the Argentine, Uruguay have won five times with one draw and one defeat. Above all, he took the scalps of Brazil and Argentina, the benchmarks of the South American continent, in the space of a month. Founding and historic victories in more than one way. The prestigious success obtained (2-0) at the Centenario in Montevideo, on October 18, ended a 22-year drought against the Brazilian selection. While the most recent, gleaned last Thursday, allowed the nation to win on Argentina’s pitch (0-2) for the first time in 36 years!
SEE ALSO – First defeat for world champion Argentina against Marcelo Bielsa’s Uruguay
As if his numbers weren’t enough, here’s another one that’s even more eloquent. Beating Argentina and Brazil in the same calendar year had not happened to Uruguay since 1960, proof of the very high barrier crossed by Bielsa’s collective, already set like clockwork. “They are intense. They play you one on one, they have physical and fast players in the middle. They are a physical team, which works well and is very dangerous on the counter-attack», analyzed Lionel Messi, in person, after his team’s setback – the first since the World Cup victory – at the Bombonera. Before paying tribute to the work of “El Loco”, Olympic champion at the head of young Argentinians during the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. “In every national team or club, including the Argentina national team, you can see his touch (in Bielsa, editor’s note). They have a good team. They play very well.»
A break with the Uruguayan past
Praised for the offensive and intoxicating style given to his teams, – Bilbao and Marseille have very good memories – Bielsa is leading the Céleste towards a revolution. Guided for 15 years by the legend Oscar Tabarez, who brought consistency and brilliance (winner of the 2011 Copa America, 4th in the 2010 World Cup), the selection turned the page in 2021 by appointing Diego Alonso, left a year later due to the failure of the World Cup in Qatar (elimination in the group behind Portugal and South Korea). Then arrived the “idol” of Pep Guardiola, with his protagonist game, his intellectual discourse and the spotlight of the world of football, to change the image of a national team often labeled second-rate, “brawling” and difficult to play. (see) playing despite the sparks of the iconic Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan before them.
Positioned in 4-3-3, Bielsa’s Uruguay relies on a new golden generation, young but already confirmed at the highest level. Captain Federico Valverde (Real Madrid), Manuel Ugarte (PSG) and Rodrigo Bentancur (Tottenham) shine in midfield, Manchester United prospect Facundo Pellistri (21) accompanies striker Darwin Nunez (Liverpool) in attack. If the veteran Suarez (36 years old), today in the colors of Grêmio (Brazil), made his return for this November gathering, the Celestial gives priority to his emerging talents, visible on all lines. Only José Maria Gimenez (Atlético Madrid) still embodies the team’s recent past by supporting the reference Ronald Araujo (FC Barcelona) in defense, decisive against Argentina.
The big goal of the Copa America
“El Loco” takes advantage of this quality of squad to apply its recipe, with pressing, offensive projections and collective aggressiveness as the main ingredients. By taming his compatriots world champions on their home soil, the Argentinian technician has given himself immense credit and can see the big picture. The Uruguayans, the best attack on the continent (10 goals scored in 5 days), ideally started the qualifying campaign for the AmSouth zone for the 2026 World Cup by pocketing 10 points out of 15 possible. Before validating their ticket for the United States in three years, they will certainly go there next summer to compete in the 48th edition of the Copa America (June 20 – July 16), organized with the CONCACAF zone of ‘North America. Behind the two designated favorites, Brazil and especially Argentina, Uruguay will be b with ambition to conquer a title that has eluded them since 2011.
If the euphoria is confirmed, and the injuries leave its key players alone, the country and its 3.5 million inhabitants would be wrong not to believe it. As long as you keep your feet on the ground. “Argentina is an unforgettable world champion. Beating them gives us nothing of what they accomplished and takes nothing away from them, confided the modest Bielsa after the success against the Albiceleste. These essments are almost always exaggerated. The next match always erases the effects of the previous one“. This is good, the next match takes place this Wednesday (12:30 a.m.), against Bolivia at the Centenario. The opportunity for the Celestial to stay on her little cloud, filled with play, pion and hope. As very often with “El Loco” Bielsa.