Do you know the story of David and Goliath? If you ask for David among strongest football nations, there is no doubt - it's Uruguay.
With only 3.5 million people, Uruguay is by far the smallest country to have clinched the World Cup in football (Argentina is the next with significantly bigger base of 40 million inhabitants). In addition, they won Olympic gold medals in competitions 1924. and 1928. Some will say that those are bygone times, but the fact is that Uruguay had respectable team at any time. In this small country, football is by far the most popular sport, with around 240,000 active players, which is 7% of the whole population. Uruguay is a major exporter of footballers. In the period 2000- 2010. 1414 players (enough to form 128 teams!) went abroad. The best known clubs are famous rivals from Montevideo - Peñarol and Nacional, multiple winners of the most important international titles.
Uruguay won their first world title in 1930, on the first world championship which they also hosted. They got the honor to host the competition due to the great reputation already enjoyed in the football world, the fact that they were celebrating 100 years of independence, and also- because they promised to pay accommodation and per diem to all participants of the competition.
The second (and, so far, the last) Uruguayan title was won in far less favorable circumstances and in the heroic way - in Brazil, 1950. The deciding match was played against the host on famous Maracana stadium. Everything pointed to the triumph of powerful Brazilians who had previously defeated, among the others, Spain with 6:1 and Sweden with 7:1. The competition system was specific and there was no final match but the final group instead. Before the last match Brazil was missing only one point for the title, while Uruguay had to win. Brazil had even the lead, but the Uruguayan Juan Alberto Schiaffino scored tied at 66th minute. 11 minutes before the end, Alcides Edgardo Ghiggia scored the winning goal for Uruguay. 200,000 spectators remained speechless and, after the match, many of them needed medical treatment. It is estimated that about 300 suicides in Brazil over the next few days was caused by this defeat. The match of which is still being talked about.
In upcoming decades, Uruguayan football recorded weaker results, which is normal because it was difficult to keep up with much larger countries. At times, they reminded of the old glory when winning fourth place at World Championships 1954. and 1970. The further decline followed. In 70s-90s Uruguay failed to qualify for several World Championships. During these times, Uruguayan football has also come into disrepute because of the harshness often performed on important matches. However, this didn't stop big international teams from grabbing football players from Uruguay. Carlos Aguilera, Enzo Francescoli, Rodolfo Rodríguez, Carlos Aguilera, Daniel Fonseca and many others made great international careers and spread the glory of their country at a time when the national team didn't go well.
In recent times, Uruguayan football is back on the path of the old glory. Diego Forlan, Sebastian Abreu, Luis Suárez and their teammates won the fourth place in the World Cup 2010th thus making clear that David's battle continues.
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