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Nothing beautiful about Uruguay's game

3:05PM Tuesday July 06, 2010

While the world's population is said to be 6.83 billion, you can almost guarantee only three million people will be backing Uruguay on Wednesday.

The act of blatant cheating by Uruguay striker Luis Suarez is unfortunately just another chapter of infamy in the history of Uruguayan football.

For years now, their football has more often than not been associated with the ugly, dark side of the beautiful game, which casts a shadow over a glorious history.

Uruguay were the 1924 and 1928 Olympic champions, which gave them the right to host the inaugural World Cup in 1930. They impressed all with a fluent, passing game and, after boycotting the 1934 and 1938 tournaments, only enhanced their legacy when they beat Brazil in Rio to claim the Jules Rimet trophy for the second time in 1950.

Every nation wants to triumph - especially when the stakes are high - but Uruguay have taken the win at all costs mentality to new levels.

Suarez has been hailed as a hero in Montevideo and his coach is not contrite in his defence of his striker, saying it was an instinctive reaction and "not cheating".

Even worse, the Uruguayan players lifted Suarez on their shoulders after the penalty shoot out victory over Ghana, as if he was the saviour.

Nobody in the entire coaching or playing sqaud has shown any remorse for the fact that Suarez stopped a certain goal - illegally - a goal that meant we would be discussing the first ever African semi-finalist.

Modern approach

This, more than anything, just reflects the modern Uruguayan approach to the game.

Think back to 2002, when Uruguay faced Australia in the qualification for the World Cup in Germany. The Socceroos' hotel was surrounded constantly by fans playing drums, trumpets and chanting throughout the night. The players were kicked, elbowed and spat on during the game, which they lost 1-0.

Go back to 2006, as the Socceroos again faced Uruguay for a place in the World Cup finals. After their earlier experience, Australia based themselves in Argentina, just flying in on the day of the game. The South Americans then tried to change the day of the game, which would mean that the Oceania representatives would miss their flight back for the second leg in Melbourne and also Uruguay would have an extra day to prepare. Their bid was eventually vetoed by FIFA.

At the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, making their first appearance in 12 years, they made an immediate impact when their midfielder Jose Batista was sent off after just 55 seconds of their match against Scotland, after a vicious challenge on Gordon Strachan. It remains the fastest ever red card in history.

And if you want role models, take a look at Paolo Montero. A regular captain of his national side in a 15-year international between 1991 and 2006, he set a record for the most amount of red cards ever received in Italy's Serie A while playing for Juventus. Montero also had his fair share of sending offs in international football.

"We're at a party to which we were not invited," Tabarez said about their surprise inclusion in the semi-finals.

And as an unwelcome guest, most football fans across the world will be hoping they leave FIFA's biggest show come Wednesday morning.

Semi Finals Action live on ONE and on tvnz.co.nz - coverage from 6am
Wednesday - Netherlands v Uruguay
Thursday - Germany v Spain