Uruguay's fall over the last few months has been startling. The team that won hearts of football fans by surprisingly lifting the Copa América in 2011 has faded badly, too often playing uninspiring and ineffective football. World Cup qualification looks doubtful, with La Celeste winning only winning four of their last 15 games under manager Óscar Tabárez.
There are few teams in the world who have individually better strikers than Uruguay, though Tabárez has struggled to make a combination of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suárez function, frequently turning to the ageing and increasingly ineffectual Diego Forlán instead. Add that to struggles elsewhere on the pitch -- perhaps most obviously a lack of creative quality in the centre of midfield -- and El Maestro Tabárez has often been left scratching his head.
However, Uruguay will be hoping that their current run of two consecutive victories against France and Venezuela will kick-start the run of good form they need to book their place in the World Cup next year. A good showing in the Confederations Cup could help Tabárez finally work out his best starting eleven, and give them the confidence they've lacked of late.
Projected starting lineup (4-4-2)
Óscar Tabárez is so fidgety that he makes the archetypal tinkerman Claudio Ranieri look overly stuck in his tactical ways. Having played with all manner of formations at Uruguay -- including variations on defensive trios -- he seems to have settled on a 4-4-2. That sees Uruguay adopt a rigid 'two banks' shape when out of possession, before breaking with pace through fluid interchanges between the wingers and strikers.
It is these transitions between defence and attack that La Celeste really need to perfect, particularly with no real deep-lying playmaker to distribute from midfield. Neither of the expected starting central midfielders -- Walter Gargano and Diego Pérez -- are great playmakers, with both being pretty defensive players. That means there'll be a huge emphasis on the wingers and strikers to combine well -- something that hasn't consistently been the case.
Player to watch
Luis Suárez. Providing Luis Suárez can forget about his impending move away from Liverpool, he'll be a key player for Uruguay. His record at international level is very almost one goal every two games, and having scored 31 times in total, he's only a couple off Diego Forlán's all time Uruguayan record. Suárez has scored four times in his last six international matches, in a run of form which hopefully suggests his partnership with Edinson Cavani is coming together.
Semi-final. Uruguay are fortunate to have been placed in the easier group of the two. While they'll be expected to be defeated by Spain, they should beat both Nigeria and Tahiti and progress to the semi-finals, though it is hard to see them achieving much more than that.