Despite a hard-fought victory over rivals Argentina, Uruguay will have to go through a nervy World Cup qualification playoff if they're to make it to Brazil 2014. They finish up fifth in the CONMEBOL qualification group, unable to overcome Ecuador's superior goal difference in the final round of games.
They got their game against Argentina off to a perfect start, finding themselves ahead after just six minutes. A low Luis Suárez free-kick somehow bounced through to an unmarked Cristian Rodríguez at Sergio Romero's back post, with the Atlético Madrid midfielder taking advantage of the unimpressive Argentine defending to lash the ball back across the goalkeeper and open the scoring.
Unfortunately, the hosts' lead didn't last very long. Within ten minutes Argentina had pulled level when Augusto Fernández capitalised on some equally poor defending from Uruguay, chesting down Rodrigo Palacio's cross and allowing Maxi Rodríguez to pounce and slot in at the near post. It was an eventful, end-to-end game, though the visitors quickly came to look the more dangerous of the two sides.
However, Uruguay still posed a threat on the counter-attack, and were given a great chance to put themselves ahead again just past the half-hour. Suárez went down softly in the area, though the referee felt enough contact had been made to warrant the award of a penalty. Suárez stepped up to convert the ensuing spot-kick, though only after Romero had first gotten a weak hand to the ball.
Uruguay were initially buoyed by retaking the lead, though their porous defence let them down again before the halftime whistle. Maxi Rodríguez got himself on the scoresheet a second time after finding space down La Celeste's right, cutting inside before drilling the ball inside Fernando Muslera's far post for 2-2. It was an unpredictable match and the hosts almost found themselves ahead again on the stroke of halftime, though Edinson Cavani's glanced header narrowly flashed wide.
La Celeste picked up where they left off in the second half, almost finding themselves in front again through a set-piece. Suárez's corner was flicked on by Cavani, though no one was on hand to provide the decisive touch. It didn't matter a couple of minutes later, when Cavani capitalised on a poor clearance by Federico Fernández and an inch-perfect Suárez through ball to finally add Uruguay's third.
However celebrations were muted, with the hosts still needing a big swing on goal difference to qualify ahead of Ecuador -- who were losing away in Chile. They continued to create opportunities with Argentina looking increasingly second-best, though poor finishing and bad refereeing -- with a clear penalty for handball turned down in stoppage time -- saw them fail to add to their three goals. Despite victory on the night, an intercontinental playoff now once again stands between Óscar Tabárez's team and Brazil 2014.
Uruguay starting lineup (4-4-2): Fernando Muslera; Jorge Fucile, Diego Godín, Diego Lugano, Maxi Pereira; Cristian Rodríguez, Diego Pérez (Gastón Ramírez 46'), Egidio Arévalo Ríos, Christian Stuani; Edinson Cavani, Luis Suárez.
Goals: Rodríguez 6', Suárez pen 34', Cavani 49'.
Argentina starting lineup (4-4-2): Sergio Romero; José María Basanta, Sebastián Domínguez, Federico Fernández, Hugo Campagnaro; Maxi Rodríguez, Éver Banega (Leandro Somoza 68'), Lucas Biglia, Augusto Fernández (Mauro Icardi 82'); Rodrigo Palacio, Érik Lamela (José Sosa 76').
Goals: Rodríguez 15', 41'.