Mental pressure tells for Uruguay
Uruguay's dream of repeating their World Cup triumph of 1950 at the Maracana is over, Jose Pekerman's Colombia side fully deserved the 2-0 victory on Saturday night as they controlled the ball and were the most attacking team throughout the whole game.
Uruguay's strategy to stop their rival's offensive movements across the first half proved to be effective during the first 25 minutes. However, James Rodriguez's magnificent goal destroyed Oscar Tabarez's plans and forced them to go out and try to score sooner than they expected. A change in the team's attacking attitude was noticeable after the goal, but it wasn't enough to test David Ospina in the first 45 minutes.
When the second half started, the Luis Suarez-less La Celeste tried to do the best they could with the weapons that they had at their disposal but Rodriguez's second strike was too big of a setback. It wasn't that not enough time remained for them to come back; it wasn't that Edinson Cavani or Diego Forlan had run out of options to score. Indeed, the feeling at the time for Uruguayans was that the team was simply heartbroken.
The will to recover was there -- the players never stopped trying and every ball was fought for like it was the final match of their careers -- but going two goals down without their star player just proved too much to handle. The squad have been fighting non-stop against adversity for eight years and had to stand up against England and Italy in two excruciating games. They have a fantastic ability to recover when everything seems to be slipping away but, this time, their mental energy seemed to run out.
Uruguay did everything they could but Colombia were just too tough for them. The effort they put in was admirable, but they clearly fell short against a fantastic football team.
Now they have to rebuild, but even Tabarez has not been able to confirm what happens next. If he stays, there is a need to ensemble a new team with the spine of the current squad and a host of newcomers to help inject fresh blood. Many components of the team will have to be uprooted for the new players to blossom but Uruguay's youth teams have developed many stars before and the next wave are already there, ready to jump on the scene.
The big question is what will happen if Tabarez doesn't continue. Will the new coach continue with all the great things that Tabarez has done to La Celeste? Will the youth development plan continue? Will he simply delete this squad and start afresh with other men?
Tabarez has done one wonderful and unquestionable act of greatness during his time in charge: he has made Uruguayans feel proud of their team again. After having to watch three World Cup tournaments on TV since 1994, the coach placed Uruguay back where its history demands.
Whatever the future brings, La Celeste will always have a strong support, anxiously waiting for the next challenge, with a huge desire to show the passion that every Uruguayan feels deep inside. After the rigours of this World Cup, once the side have recovered, they can begin another journey toward success.