(SportsNetwork.com) - After a strong finish in South Africa four years ago, Uruguay enters the 2014 World Cup as a potential underdog to reach the final.
2014 marks Uruguay's 12th appearance in the World Cup and second straight. The side rode some strong individual performances all the way to a fourth-place finish in South Africa, and will need similar dazzling solo efforts if they hope to repeat the feat.
Uruguay won the World Cup in Brazil in 1950 and will head into 2014 with two key advantages according to head coach Oscar Tabarez, who believes his players are in the prime of their footballing careers, and the side can draw confidence from playing in last year's Confederations Cup in Brazil.
"What happened in 1950 was a long time ago, a different era," Tabarez said. "But it won't be easy to beat us. Brazil found it hard to beat us last year. We could cause some surprises and go a long way."
Leading the men in sky blue is Liverpool striker Luis Suarez. The once- polarizing forward had an unbelievable season for the Reds as he led the Premier League with 31 goals despite missing the first five matches of the season due to suspension.
He also scored 11 times for Uruguay during qualifying and the side needed every one of his strikes having allowed 25 goals during the grueling campaign.
But there is some speculation as to whether Suarez will play when the tournament gets underway after suffering meniscus damage in his left knee in training on May 21. If Suarez does not suit up, it will mean a sizable void needs to be filled by fellow strikers Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan.
Cavani had a stellar season for French champions Paris Saint-Germain, scoring 16 goals in Ligue 1 as well as six goals for his country during qualifying. But carrying the offensive burden on his own if Suarez in unavailable is a tall order.
Forlan will make another appearance in the World Cup after an exceptional 2010 tournament in which he won the Golden Ball as the best player and was joint top scorer with five tallies. Forlan is 34 years old, but is still an excellent finisher and can propel the attack forward in Suarez's potential absence.
Uruguay breezed through a two-legged playoff against Jordan, 5-0, to secure its place, but the defense was an issue during the qualifying campaign as they finished fifth in the group with 25 points.
Veteran defender Diego Lugano will anchor a back line hoping for better performances against difficult opposition in Group D. Also at the back for Uruguay is Diego Godin, who comes into the tournament in fine form after helping Atletico Madrid reach the UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid.
With Suarez, Cavani and Forlan leading the line, Uruguay boasts one of the strongest attacks in the field of 32, but they may have to outscore teams if they hope to make a deep run. If Suarez is missing for any length of time, however, it could put a serious dent in the club's hopes for a strong showing.