One of the traditional powerhouses of South American football, Uruguay were hoping to prove their worth on the global stage this time around. They had been crowned Copa America champions both in 1983 and 1987, and in the latest edition, held in summer 1989 in Brazil, they had only been denied by the hosts, finishing 2nd in the tournament. Head coach Óscar Tábarez (1988– ) was no doubt leading one of the most talented sides on the continent, but would need to improve on the performance showed by the nation in the 1986 World Cup, where they had failed to live up to expectations and instead become subject to much criticism on the grounds of unsportmanlike conduct. There were clear signs of improvement in the latter respect, and led on by new captain Enzo Francescoli there was also hope that they could revive the nation’s pride in a World Cup once again. Read more . . .

World Cup appearances:
1930, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1986


Qualifier 1
Estadio Nacional (Lima)



Sosa (47′)
Alzamendi (68′)

Group favourites Uruguay got their campaign under way with a professional away win in Lima, where they had let the hosts dominate possession. After a goalless first half, both wide forwards notched each their goal in the second 45, with Alzamendi first assisting and then scoring. Peru were lightweight and no real match for the rock solid Uruguayan rearguard, and with such defensive control, they could enjoy some quick transitions to catch the hosts off balance, a tactic which proved highly efficient on the day. 

Line-up (4-3-3): Pereira – Herrera, Gutiérrez, de León, Domínguez – Ostolaza (Correa 80), Perdomo, Paz (Bengoechea 76) – Alzamendi, Francescoli (c), Sosa.

Qualifier 2
Estadio Hernando Siles (La Paz)

Domínguez (38′ o.g.)
Peña (47′)


Sosa (49′)

Manager Tabárez had set his team up precisely like in Lima, but they were ultimately overpowered by a spirited home side and succumbed to the altitude. Uruguay gave a performance of less energy, and they were second best for large portions. The attacking quartet, which had been efficient in their transitions the previous week, failed to shine, though at least Sosa took his one opportunity well enough for the team to ‘only’ lose by the single goal margin. The entire midfield three were cautioned.

Line-up (4-3-3): Pereira – Herrera (Bengoechea 78), Gutiérrez, de León, Domínguez – Ostolaza, Perdomo, Paz – Alzamendi, Francescoli (c), Sosa.

Qualifier 3
Estadio Centenario (Montevideo)

Sosa (31′)
Francescoli (39′)



Returning home to an almost packed Estadio Centenario, the Uruguayans still had qualification all in their own hands. They ‘just’ needed to win their two remaining matches. Tabárez had once again named the same starting eleven, and in a similar outline as for their two previous qualifiers. They went on to boss the game from start to finish, rarely allowing the table-topping visitors a sniff. Two first half goals ensured the win, and Sosa’s opener was the lethal forward’s third goal of the qualification. Uruguay would’ve been pleased to see Francescoli’s name on the scoresheet, too. Paz stood out from his attacking midfield role, and the hosts often worked their way along the left-sided channel. They could not add to their tally, although the visitors finished the game with nine men. Twice Uruguay could easily have been awarded a penalty, once in either half, Francescoli on the receiving end of some feisty tackles on both occasions.

Line-up (4-3-3): Pereira – Herrera, Gutiérrez, de León, Domínguez – Ostolaza, Perdomo (Correa 79), Paz (Bengoechea 67) – Alzamendi, Francescoli (c), Sosa.

Qualifier 4
Estadio Centenario (Montevideo)

 Sosa (45+2′, 58′)



Having used an identical starting line-up for their first three qualifiers, Tabárez had this time been forced into making changes. Two vital players were missing in captain Francescoli and holding midfielder Perdomo, and these were replaced by Bengoechea and Correa. It led to a further rearrangement in the team, as Paz, who had acted as the more attacking among their three midfielders, would replace Francescoli in the deep-lying forward role, while Bengoechea took up Paz’ midfield position. The hosts were superior throughout, even if battling Peru possibly surprised a few onlookers, and their route to victory was made easier after Reynoso’s red card for a punch on Bengoechea. Sosa struck with typical low shots from inside the area either side of the half-time break, and Pereira only had a couple of routine saves to make. However, Peru failed to hit the back of the net having seen Hirano take the ball around the ‘keeper, only to hit the outside of the post from an angle with the score at 1-0. It mattered not. By the full-time whistle, Uruguay had qualified for a second straight World Cup. 

Line-up (4-3-3): Pereira – Herrera, Gutiérrez, de León (c), Domínguez – Ostolaza, Correa, Bengoechea – Alzamendi, Paz, Sosa.


Ultimately, like just about everyone had predicted, Uruguay made their way through to Italia ’90, but it is not like it happened without a fight from a very brave and resilient Bolivian team. 

Fresh from their second place finish in the Copa América tournament in Brazil, the Uruguayans got off to the start which they’d wanted through winning against Peru in Lima by 2-0. Tabárez had not found a reason to change his team much for the start of the World Cup qualification, except for one position: 35 year old Eduardo Pereira would take over from Javier Zeoli. This remained so for the duration of the qualification. 

Defensive rock: Nelson Gutiérrez

Having caught their Peruvian hosts on the break and won comfortably after goals from Sosa and Alzamendi, Uruguay travelled to play Bolivia in the La Paz altitude. After the home side had beaten Peru in their opening fixture, also at home, they would go on and produce perhaps one of the games of the entire CONMEBOL qualification, as few would’ve predicted them to beat Uruguay, even at home. Uruguay had not managed to replicate their performance from Peru, and were deservedly beaten in an energy-less display on their behalf. Uruguay had never really threatened to get an equalizer after Sosa had pulled a goal back with his second strike of the qualification.

Before the Uruguayans returned home to Montevideo to play their final two qualifiers, Bolivia had been in Lima and won by 2-1, thus claiming their third straight win. This meant that there was absolutely no room for error for the Celeste side, as they now would have to win both their home games. Not that it was beyond them in any way, and Bolivia’s slim victories all along also meant that wins by any margin, as long as they won both ties, would suffice to see Uruguay through. 

It finished 2-0 to Uruguay against Bolivia, and ultimately, it had been a comfortable win. However, the Bolivians had defended well, but still been carved open on two first half occasions, from which that man Sosa and team captain Francescoli both capitalized. The latter, by the way, had featured in his final qualifier, as he was due to return back to his French club side, rendering him ineligible for the visit of Peru the following Sunday. The goal and in fact also his performance against Bolivia apart, Francescoli had had a bit of a disappointing qualification performance-wise. Sosa had now struck in all three of Uruguay’s matches. 

Having used the same starting eleven for their first three qualifiers, the Uruguayans had to make a couple of changes in personnel for the visit of Peru, the final of their two must-win games. With Francescoli and also influental midfielder Perdomo (suspension) missing out, Bengoechea and Correa were added to the team, while big centre-back de León took over the captain’s armband. In addition, playmaker Paz, who had been terrific across the three qualifiers thus far, was moved into Francescoli’s deep-lying forward role. This had seemed to upset the rhythm within the team a little, and it took them some time to get going in their final qualifier. 

Man of the moment: Rubén Sosa

However, with the in-form Rubén Sosa in your team, you were always a goal threat. He would score both goals, one either side of half-time, by the point when the Peruvians had already been down to ten men thanks to a stupid sending off when Reynoso had lashed out on Bengoechea in retaliation. Still, Uruguay had endured a major scare a few minutes into the second half, when Peru striker Hirano had failed to tuck the ball into the back of an empty net having rounded Pereira. After Sosa’s second, though, it was all plain sailing. Uruguay had qualified, and expected order had been resumed. 


Player Statistics

Number of players used: 13
Number of players including unused substitutes: 19
Ever-presents (360 minutes): 7 (Eduardo Pereira, Gutiérrez, de León, Domínguez, Ostolaza, Alzamendi, Sosa)
Leading goalscorer: Rubén Sosa (5)
Yellow/red cards: 5/0

– overview

Pereira, E.44360
de León44360
da Silva4
Pereira, R.1

– game by game

PlayerPer (a)Bol (a)Bol (h)Per (h)AppsMins
Pereira, Eduardo909090904360
de León909090904360
da SilvaRRRR
Pereira, RubénR

– ratings

PosPlayerAverage ratingNumber of rated games
de León6,974
Pereira, E.6,774
Explanation to table: A player must have been given a rating in at least three matches in order to feature

Top three individual ratings
1 Sosa 7,9 vs Peru (h)
2 Paz 7,5 vs Bolivia (h)
3 Paz 7,4 vs Peru (a), Francescoli 7,4 vs Bolivia (h), Sosa 7,4 vs Bolivia (h), Gutiérrez 7,4 vs Peru (h)


Marlboro Cup 
02.02.1990: Uruguay 2-0 Colombia (neutral ground in Miami, USA)
Goals: Pedrucci, Castro
Line-up: Álvez – Saldanha, Gonçalves, de León, Domínguez – Pereira, Ostolaza, Suárez (Pedrucci) – Martínez (Miqueiro), Fonseca (Cedrés), Castro

Marlboro Cup
04.02.1990: Uruguay 2-0 Costa Rica (neutral ground in Miami, USA)
Goals: Castro (pen.), Camacho (o.g.)
Line-up (4-3-3): Álvez – Saldanha, Gonçalves, de León (c), Domínguez – Pereira, Ostolaza, Pedrucci (Correa 74) – Martínez (Miqueiro 83), Fonseca (Cedrés h-t), Castro
In a mini-tournament where they were without their European based aces, Uruguay made light work of brushing a disappointing Costa Rican team aside, as two early goals proved enough. They were more or less solid throughout, but hardly had to maximize their efforts against an impotent opponent. Gonçalves did well at the back, while Pedrucci and Martínez were also pleasant acquaintances further ahead of him. 

20.03.1990: Mexico 2-1 Uruguay (neutral ground in Los Angeles, USA)
Goal: Suárez
Line-up: Álvez – Saldanha, Gonçalves (Revelez), de León, Domínguez – Pereira, Correa (Dorta), Suárez – Cedrés, Fonseca, Castro (Cabrera)
Danubio midfielder Suárez notched towards the end of the first half, at a point when the opposition were already two goals to the good. It was his first goal at international level. Interesting to see Gonçalves rewarded for his fine performance(s) at the Marlboro Cup with another start alongside the (expected) captain. Once again there were no European based players taking part, and young strikers Cedrés and Fonseca were both given the opportunity to showcase their skills from the outset. Debut for midfielder Diego Dorta of Central Español. 

25.04.1990: West Germany 3-3 Uruguay
Goals: Aguilera, Ostolaza, Revelez
Line-up: E. Pereira – Herrera, Revelez, de León (c), Domínguez – Ostolaza, Perdomo, R. Pereira – Aguilera (Martínez), Paz (Fonseca), Sosa
Nearly back at full strength here, with only Gutiérrez, Francescoli and Alzamendi missing from what had been a regular starting line-up the previous year. An excellent result against what was effectively a full-strength West Germany, with all six goals coming after the break. Ostolaza was back and proved his worth at set-piece with another goal, while Paz most likely appeared in the ‘Francescoli role’ as the deep forward on this occasion. Revelez continued alongside de León after having replaced Gonçalves against Mexico. Carlos Aguilera, now of Genoa, rewarded with a goal in what was for him a rare appearance. 

18.05.1990: Northern Ireland 1-0 Uruguay
Line-up: Zeoli – Herrera (Saldanha), Gutiérrez, de León, Domínguez – Ostolaza, Perdomo, Bengoechea (Paz) – Alzamendi (Aguilera), Francescoli, Sosa
Both Alzamendi and Francescoli were back for this clash in Belfast, yet Uruguay lost to mediocre European opposition thanks to a dreadfully headed flick on the near post from a left wing Northern Ireland corner by Gutiérrez, making his first international appearance since the World Cup qualification. It was very much an attack-minded selection by Tabárez, with Bengoechea seemingly making up a midfield three along with Ostolaza and Perdomo. Zeoli back between the sticks after veteran Eduardo Pereira had made a mess of two of West Germany’s goals last time out. 

22.05.1990: England 1-2 Uruguay
Goals: Ostolaza, Perdomo
Line-up: Pereira – Herrera, Gutiérrez, de León, Domínguez – Ostolaza, Perdomo, Paz – Alzamendi, Francescoli, Sosa (Martínez)