Uruguay's first match of the Confederations Cup sees them take on Spain on Sunday, and Madrid will be watching closely as they decide who to replace Gonzalo Higuain with
By Daniel Edwards
When it comes to international football, few teams can boast as proud or impressive history as Uruguay. The Celeste, original winners of the World Cup back in 1930, are by far the smallest nation to have achieved such a feat, and their record in other competitions is nothing to sneer at either.
With Olympic Games and Copa America victories also to their name, only the Confederations Cup remains for the South American nation to complete a clean sweep of major international trophies; a feat only achieved previously by France and Argentina.
If Oscar Tabarez's men wish to cause a surprise in Brazil, their hopes will lie heavily on striking duo Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. The pair may also have other, slightly more selfish reasons to make a splash in the upcoming competition.
With Gonzalo Higuain expected to leave Real Madrid in the summer transfer window, part of an expected exodus from the Santiago Bernabeu as Jose Mourinho's faltering side is dismantled, attention is already turning to who will replace the Argentine goalscorer. Many names have been mentioned, and others (like Monaco recruit Radamel Falcao) have already fallen by the wayside. Uruguay's deadly duo, meanwhile, remain well in the spotlight.
Of the two, Suarez has been the most vocal about his desire to pull on the famous white shirt. While his form has stayed impressive during three seasons with Liverpool, several serious disputes and controversies which have led to constant abuse and criticism from fans and observers outside Anfield have taken their toll on the former Ajax man. Speaking to RR Gol earlier in the week, the 26-year-old made it plain that he would be open to a move to the Spanish capital.
"Real Madrid is a huge club that every player dreams about, Real Madrid is Real Madrid, it is the biggest thing that can happen to a player and it is always attractive," Suarez enthused in Monday's interview, before clarifying that no talks currently existed and that he was still under contract with Liverpool. As a statement of intentions, however, these words of praise appear to represent a fairly blatant 'come and get me' plea to whoever takes over the Bernabeu hotseat this summer.
Cavani, meanwhile, has cut a rather more reserved figure; opting instead to let his outrageous scoring exploits for Napoli do the talking for him.
A perfectly-placed low shot for Uruguay on Tuesday evening, the only goal of an away win over Venezuela that could prove crucial for Brazil 2014 qualification, was classic Edinson as he cut in sharply from the right, leaving his marker stranded in the process. But that was just one for the 2012-13 collection. This season the striker was more ruthless than ever as he secured the Partenopei second place in Serie A with 29 goals in 34 appearances, hitting a total of 38 in all competitions.
Those kind of numbers are bound to attract the likes of Madrid, although Cavani is also reportedly sought after in England by Chelsea and Manchester City.
Speaking to Marca on Sunday, the Uruguayan dodged a question on the Merengue by praising La Liga, but most telling, however, was the admission that he is currently talking to other clubs.
Fittingly enough, Uruguay's first and most daunting test in the Confederations Cup first round doubles up as the perfect audition for Cavani and Suarez.
The Celeste will face none other than Spain, home of Madrid stars Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa and Raul Albiol. If either or both of the pair can demonstrate why they are considered amongst the best strikers in the world against a defence that could contain up to three or four Madrid men, they will go a long way towards convincing Florentino Perez that one is the right man to replace Higuain.
We have, then, a classic quandary that international football loves to throw at players. In order to make a case for Madrid to open their chequebook and grant a dream move, Cavani and Suarez must aim to run rings around their defenders on Sunday afternoon. It is a challenge both of the Celeste hitmen will be relishing.