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 Copa America more than any other South American nation

Uruguay wins the Copa America 2011

Uruguay wins the Copa America 2011 Photo: Jimmy Baikovicius

You read it here. Yes, more than Brazil and more than Argentina. The Copa America is the longest running international continent-wide football tournament in the world and Uruguay has won it 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. Photo by 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 Fanaticos del Futbol, 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]