URUGUAY WILL have history and tradition on their side when they take on Australia in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying play- off at the Melbourne Cricket Ground today.
While the Australians have only reached the finals once, in 1974, Uruguay have twice won the tournament, in 1930 and 1950. They have, however, not qualified for the World Cup since 1990, and failure to see off the challenge of Oceania's finest would be regarded as humiliation back home in Montevideo, where the second leg of the play-off takes place in the Centenario stadium on Sunday.
Uruguay only just managed to secure fifth place, which earned them the play-off, in the South American qualifying tournament. Their coach, Victor Pua, knows that his side cannot assume the status of favourites. "We are expecting to face a very strong Australian side who will try to exploit their aerial power and their ability to penetrate the flanks," Pua said. "But I have great faith in my team's defence to handle any threat that comes their way."
Australia were prolific scorers during the Oceania qualifiers, in which they achieved a world-record international victory by beating American Samoa 31-0, but they will face a far tougher challenge this week. Uruguay had the best defensive record in the South American qualifiers, letting in just 13 goals in 18 games. …