7 amazing facts about Uruguay national football team

Despite its pint size population, Uruguay has one of the most successful national teams in footballing history.
By Karen A Higgs
Uruguay national football team
Last updated on July 21, 2022

Uruguay is international football’s most successful nation. La Celeste, how the Uruguay national football team is known, has won twenty titles in total. The most recent conquest was the Copa America in 2011. At the FIFA World Cup, Uruguay finished fourth in 2010 and reached the quarter-finals in 2014 and 2018. Not bad for a country of just three and a half million!

1. Uruguay hosted the first ever World Cup

And both stadiums are still the premier venues for matches today.

2. Uruguay national football team has won the World Cup twice

They won the first ever World Cup in 1930. And beat Brazil in a legendary final known as the ‘Maracanazo’ in 1950.

3. Uruguay has won the most Copa Americas

Uruguay wins the Copa América 2011
Uruguay wins the Copa América 2011 © Jimmy Baikovicius

Together with Argentina, Uruguay has won the Copa America—the longest running international continent-wide football tournament in the world—a staggering FIFTEEN times. They’ve also finished in the top four every year except two (1993 and 2015).

4. Uruguay had the world’s first soccer sex symbol

Andrade before the World Cup football final in 1930
Andrade before the World Cup football final in 1930 © Getty

Now this is original, you have to admit. José Leandro Andrade was a football phenomenon known as the first black icon in football and the first sporting sex symbol. An imposing six-footer, he played footie in the 1920s when the Olympic Games was in effect a world championship of football. He enthralled European audiences, and divas including Josephine Baker and Colette and hundreds of thousands went to watch him play.

5. Uruguay has more teams per capita than anywhere else in the world

Yup, there are more football teams registered with the AUF, the national football association, than are registered in any other nation. Incredible.

6. Uruguayan fans are crazy about it

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 EIGHT 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 his 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.

7. Uruguay has the best official football anthem EVER

The 1992 Uruguay squad had one of the best official football anthems EVER. The song writer is Jaime Roos, yes, he of the moustache, it has great lyrics and is played in the local candombe rhythm with carnival (murga) choruses. #GottaLoveUruguay

More about Uruguay and the beautiful game:

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

Photos: Jimmy Baikovicius

[Article first published: August 9 2015]

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0 Responses

  1. Hi there.

    Your website has been such an invaluable resource to my wife and I as we prepare for incoming trip to Uruguay, thanks for doing what you do!

    I have a question if that’s ok? I reached out to a local football tour guide and they asked for my passport number in advance and to take the passport to the game. Is this normal for events in Uruguay?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Mikey

      Greetings from the Guru and Uruguay! Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m delighted to be making a difference. By the way if you love the site you will adore the books (see links in the footer)! They give you waaaay more information and are very easy to reads. People tell me they read them from cover to cover in one sitting!

      This is not a scam. Passports are needed as a security measure.

      All the best and have a wonderful time in Uruguay. Would love to see you on social media or commenting on the website about your stay, Karen

  2. we have a friend flying in from the EEUU for Friday’s partido v Francia.
    we have been content to watch either at home or in a quiet bar – but where would be the best exciting, Locura Celeste hincha filled pace to take our friend for the game??
    gracias!!!

  3. 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.

  4. Hi
    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
    Thanks

  5. 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?

    Gracias.
    Ana

    1. 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

  6. 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!

    1. 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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