The little country that might wonder if it can still.
However, slowly, suddenly, a shadow is infiltrating the place under the Uruguayan sun. Their last two World Cup qualifying matches, against Argentina and Brazil, brought heavy defeats.
The second leg against Argentina on Friday in Montevideo and a visit to Bolivia on Tuesday offer little respite.
Uruguay ranks fifth in the South American rankings entering those games, in danger of losing an automatic qualifying spot for Qatar 2022 and at risk of moving away from the safety net of a playoff spot.
For the first time, the coach who has overseen Uruguay’s resurgence on the international stage – Óscar Washington Tabárez, 74, his movement but no, he has insisted, his ability now restricted by Guillain-Barré syndrome – has appeared vulnerable.
There are those who, in Uruguay, believe that their day has passed.
For many, the very idea borders on the unthinkable, somewhere between anathema and heresy. Suarez suggested that it showed how “spoiled” people – fans, journalists, executives, possibly even gamers – had been for success.
One of his teammates, the imposing central defender José María Giménez, lamented that “football has no memory.” Even Diego Forlán, the striker now retired to a role as a beloved older statesman, looked hurt. “It would hurt,” he said after the team’s two most recent losses, “if it ended like this.”
It didn’t end, of course, or at least it didn’t end then. Following the defeat against Brazil, Tabárez and his assistants were summoned to the headquarters of the Uruguayan soccer federation.
For two hours, they defended their case to the executives. Federation leaders agreed to sleep on the decision; the next morning they confirmed that Tabárez would remain in his place.