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7 things you don’t know about Uruguay’s national soccer squad

Uruguay wins the Copa America 2011
Uruguay wins the Copa America 2011 Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius

Uruguay is international football’s most successful nation. La Celeste, as the national soccer team is known, has won twenty titles in total, the most recent being the Copa America in 2011 and they finished fourth in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and reached the 2014 quarter-finals.

Not bad for a country of just three and a half million.

Did you know?

  • Uruguay hosted the first ever World Cup – and both stadiums used are still the premier venues for matches today.
  • Uruguay has won the World Cup twice. They won the first ever World Cup in 1930. And beat Brazil at the final in the legendary Maracanã stadium in 1950.
  • Uruguay has won the Copa America more than any other South American nation – 15 times. The Copa America is the longest running international continent-wide football tournament in the world. Uruguay has finished in the top four every year except two (1993 and 2015).
World champions: Andrade before the World Cup football final in 1930. Photograph: Getty
World champions: Andrade before the World Cup football final in 1930. Photograph: Getty
  • “The first Pelé” was Uruguayan.  José Leandro Andrade was a football phenomenon who has been called the first black icon in football and was possibly the first sporting sex symbol. An imposing six-footer, in the 1920s, when the Olympic Games was in effect a world championship of football, Andrade was entrancing European audiences to such an extent that hundreds of thousands came to watch him play.
  • Uruguay has more teams per capita registered with their national football association (the AUF) than any other nation in the world.
  • Uruguayan fans are crazily devoted and ready to put their pesos where their mouths are. Just one of countless examples… At the start of the 80s, Fernando Morena, crack Uruguayan striker, was playing in Spain. He had transfered there from Montevideo club Peñarol where during one memorable match he scored 8 goals. In 1981, Peñarol fans desperately wanted Morena back for the club’s 90th anniversary. Operation Morena was launched with fans clubbing together the equivalent of a million dollars to pay for Morena’s transfer back to Uruguay out of their own pockets. Morena went on to become Uruguay’s top scoring player, a record he still holds today.
  • The 1992 Uruguay squad had one of the best official football anthems EVER – written by Jaime Roos, great lyrics and in the local candombe rhythm with carnival (murga) choruses. #GottaLoveUruguay!!!

Find more articles about the beautiful game on Guruguay

Guru’Guay thanks Fanaticos del Futbol, Montevideo’s premier football tour organisers, for the inspiration and some of the information for this article. 

Cover photo: Jimmy Baikovicius


  1. Jack Brown

    December 25, 2017

    Uruguay has won 20 official titles that include Gold Medals in summer Olympics, Copa America, and 1980 Mundialito. That is more than any international football team.

  2. Federico Argul Ruiz

    March 26, 2017

    I just wanted to highlight that Uruguay in 2014 world cup didn’t make it to the quarterfinals as you said
    They lost with Colombia in the eighth-finals
    And that Fernando Morena scored 7 goals instead of 8 against Huracan Buceo
    You can update that if you want

  3. Ana

    January 23, 2017

    I am traveling to Montevideo in 2018 and would like to attend 1 or more soccer games (my son insists!). I plan to be there to catch some of Carnaval and the good weather in late February. Are there soccer matches being played at this time of the year?


    • The Guru of Guru'Guay

      January 24, 2017

      Hi Ana, I think your son is right. You HAVE to go and catch a football game. Think of it as a cultural experience as well as a sporting one 🙂 And if you go with the Futbol Fanatics you’ll have the best time as you’ll have a “captive” Uruguayan next to you (your bilingual guide) who you can grill with all those questions about the country you’ve been dying to ask someone. Friendlies and internationals will be played in February I believe. I will ask Nacho and Franco the Fanaticos to respond to just to confirm. And you have made me realise I should update my “best time to visit Uruguay” matrix with football info. So thanks for that! All the best — Karen

  4. Pooja Agarwal

    August 26, 2015

    I went to a Penarol game, spur of the moment, with Ignacio and Fanaticos Futbol Tours (mentioned at the end of the article, above). Ignacio and the van driver picked me up at Casa Sarandi (so convenient!) and we went to a Penarol game. I was so surprised at how easy it was for them to park and for us to enter without much fuss or rush (in the U.S., big sporting events are very different). Throughout the futbol game, Ignacio answered all of my questions and provided more information about futbol in Uruguay (he speaks perfect English, which is helpful). After the game, they drove the group back and dropped us off at our respective hotels/guesthouses. I even dropped my cell phone in the tour van, and they returned within 20 minutes to bring it back to where I was staying. So very nice of them!

    It wasn’t a “tour” that I went on, so I’m not sure if the last minute notice of a game was different from what they normally offer. We pretty much went to a game, with the convenience of being picked up/dropped off and also with them having purchased the ticket. So, I’m not sure what the tours are liked, but even going to a game with them was a great experience. Highly recommended!

    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      August 26, 2015

      Hi Pooja, the Football Fanaticos offer two types of tour. A tour of two museums dedicated to football and two stadiums where the first ever World Cup was played. And tours to a soccer game, which is what you did. So glad you had a great experience. One of the benefits for anyone taking the game tour option is that you have a “captive Uruguayan” who you can grill with all the questions you’ve been dying to ask sitting right next to you for three hours! — K


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