Uruguay travel to Venezuela on Tuesday knowing that defeat could end their hopes of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Oscar Tabarez’s side were one of the highlights of the 2010 FIFA World Cup as they finished fourth, playing an attractive brand of football along the way.
They also won the 2011 Copa America and looked to be embarking on an era of success that would see them compete with traditional South American heavyweights Brazil and Argentina.
But Uruguay might not even qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup if they lose in Ciudad Guayana on Tuesday.
Uruguay’s form in the World Cup qualifiers has been dreadful, and with just 13 points from 11 matches, they sit seventh.
That is in a qualification group minus Brazil – who are already guaranteed to play in the tournament due to the fact they are hosting it – meaning actually making it to the tournament should be even easier.
But a winless run of six matches in qualifying has seen Uruguay slide down the table, and with just three matches to play, they are already three points away from a play-off spot and five from automatic qualification.
They have conceded 21 goals in their 11 matches – only Paraguay, who have played 12, have a worse defence (they have shipped 23) – and it has been more than a year since Uruguay won a World Cup qualifier.
But a 1-0 friendly win over France last week, which came thanks to a Luis Suarez goal, has boosted spirits.
And striker Edinson Cavani, who is fresh off a sensational season for Napoli in Serie A, believes his team are more than capable of winning a crucial game on the road.
“We want to qualify to the World Cup,” Cavani told OMNISPORT.
“For me, talking about player’s potential, Uruguay today is superior to other national teams in terms of value, as we have players that have demonstrated enough level on their clubs.
“So when getting them together for a playoff match, whether in a World Cup or any other competition, I think we are in a better position that many other national teams.”
Suarez has scored eight goals in World Cup qualifying to date, but is suspended for the key clash with Venezuela.
Therefore, Uruguay will rely on Cavani and veteran Diego Forlan for their goals.
Venezuela played a qualifier last week and drew 1-1 with Bolivia, leaving them fifth in the group, just two points behind fourth-placed Chile.
They have won three of their five home matches, losing just one, with a 1-0 win over Argentina in October 2011 the highlight.
Rubin Kazan forward Jose Rondon has bagged four goals in the qualification process for Venezuela, while Borussia Monchengladbach’s Juan Arango has three.