June 24, 2018 / 3:00 PM / 6 months ago

Uruguay look to Copa success as World Cup inspiration

SAMARA, Russia (Reuters) - Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez knows his side have yet to hit top gear at the World Cup but warned anyone who is thinking of writing them off to remember their run to the Copa America title in 2011.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Uruguay Training - Samara Arena, Samara, Russia - June 24, 2018 Uruguay's Cristian Rodriguez, Nahitan Nandez and team mates during training REUTERS/David Gray

Uruguay, who face Russia in Samara on Monday, have already booked their last-16 place after 1-0 victories over Egypt and Saudi Arabia, yet their performances have been edgy in comparison to the hosts who sparkled against the same opponents.

Tabarez, however, was not overly worried about their early form.

The 71-year-old is a wily character, having been in charge of Uruguay since 2006, and he delved into his memory banks on Sunday to remind everyone about how they sealed their last Copa America title seven years ago.

At that tournament in Argentina, they drew their opening two group matches, before sneaking into the knockouts where they eliminated the hosts before going on to lift the trophy with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Paraguay.

“We are aware that there is pressure there and we also believe that in our prior performances, we haven’t fully lived up to our potential,” he told reporters on the eve of their final Group A fixture.

“But we face that with calmness. We have had these situations before. In the Copa America in 2011, it was a similar situation, there were matches where we were far from brilliant.

“We knew in the first knockout rounds you could not fail there and we had to face Argentina, but we won in the end.

“Those are experiences we have in the past. Of course we cannot rest on our laurels and we are working on possible deficiencies, possible ways of improving and to find solutions that can help us on the pitch.”

Despite the difficulties they had in their opening matches, Uruguay have won their first two games of a World Cup tournament for the first time since 1954 and stand one win away from topping the group.

Russia, however, boast a far superior goal difference, having crushed Saudi Arabia 5-0 and made light work of Egypt in a 3-1 win, meaning only victory will see Uruguay finish above the hosts and avoid the winners of Group B in the process.

With 2010 champions Spain and Portugal currently locked together at the top of Group B with identical records, the identity of their opponents in the next round is hard to predict.

While Tabarez did not want to be drawn on his game plan to face the Russians, he did confirm that he would not be using the opportunity of their early qualification to rotate his players in their final game.

“We will not think about resting players, we want to play seven matches and we are preparing for that and we know after every match how much regeneration is necessary,” he said.

Reporting by Toby Davis; Editing by Ian Chadband

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