Spain's exit from the 2012 Summer Olympics has been well-documented as a failure by the country's U-23 players to live up to their hype and individual talents. But one story that has been very lightly discussed has been Uruguay's exit from the Olympics.
Prior to the tournament, B/R's Michael Cummings wrote an article on why Uruguay could be a very interesting team to follow and support at this year's games.
The basic premise of the article was that though Uruguay wasn't as strong as Spain or Brazil, or as favored by the media as Great Britain, the Uruguay U-23 squad certainly boasted enough talent to be an outside contender for Olympic glory.
Indeed, history was also in Uruguay's favor at this tournament—they had never lost an Olympics match prior to this tournament, having secured the gold medal in each of their last two appearances in 1924 and 1928.
Unfortunately, history did not repeat itself in 2012.
Uruguay got off to a solid start, with youth stars Nicholas Lodeiro and Gaston Ramirez both scoring off assists from captain Luis Suarez in a 2-1 win over the United Arab Emirates.
But that would be the last time Uruguay would score in the tournament, as they lost 2-0 to Senegal and 1-0 to Great Britain.
The Senegal loss was particularly disappointing for Uruguay. Senegal had surprisingly clinched a point in their opening match vs. Great Britain, but they still boasted a relatively unknown bunch of players.
Even the country's over-age contingent of Dame N'Doye, Mohamed Diame and Pape Gueye was hardly the best crop of players that the Senegal could offer to its Olympic team.
Furthermore, Senegal did not have the players to play good quality football against Uruguay. They lined up in a 5-4-1, and played highly physical football, and relied upon striking prodigy Moussa Konate to take advantage of his half-chances, which he did.
Most of all, Uruguay failed to capitalize on a one-man advantage they had from the 30th minute, after Aboulaye Ba was sent off for a second bookable offense. They managed only four shots on target the entire game, compared to Senegal's five.
Uruguay went into their final match with Great Britain knowing it was effectively a knockout match; the winner would move on and the loser would almost surely go home. And though Uruguay put in a much-improved performance, they still had massive problems finding the back of the net, and with accuracy in general.
Curiously, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, considered to be two of the most clinical forwards in the world, struggled badly to convert their shots into goals. In total, Suarez took 12 shots in the tournament, with five on goal, while Cavani took eight shots, with three on goal.
None ended in the back of the net.
Is it fair to put all the blame for Uruguay's poor performances on Suarez and Cavani, Uruguay's elite duo? Yes and no.
Of course, any national team that fails in any competition fails as a unit, and rarely if ever are only a pair of individuals responsible for their country's collective failure at a tournament. Hypothetically speaking, any of the Uruguay's other eight outfielders could've stepped up to compensate for Suarez and Cavani's inefficiency in front of goal.
But there's no denying that Suarez and Cavani failed to strike up a partnership like the one Diego Forlan and Suarez had at the 2011 Copa America and 2010 World Cup. At those tournaments, Forlan was not only a playmaker who made his teammates better, but also a massive goal threat.
Cavani and Suarez failed to be either at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Again, it's not fair to blame them alone, but it's fair to say that Uruguay's fate was effectively in their hands, and they failed to step up to take their country beyond even the group stage of the tournament.
We'll see how the Cavani-Suarez partnership develops in future tournaments and competitions. For now, it is need of rapid improvement, and is a big reason why Uruguay, a team with considerable talent across the squad, were a big disappointment at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
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