MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — To say that Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez has been around would be an understatement.
In his second stint as Uruguay coach, Tabarez took the South American team to the 1990 World Cup in Italy, reaching the second round before losing to Italy.
From there, he moved to numerous well-known club teams: Boca Juniors, Penarol, Cagliari, AC Milan, Oviedo, Velez Sarsfield — and then back to Boca Juniors.
Not bad for a guy who had a modest playing career as a journeyman defender.
Tabarez, after sitting out of football for several years, returned to the Uruguay national team after it failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Tabarez is a former teacher — known as "El Maestro" — who has worked over the years to build up Uruguay's youth football system. He has also tried to soften Uruguay's traditional style of rough and tough play, known in Spanish as "garra." It literally means "claw," but it translates best as determination, toughness or grit.
Uruguay is the team no one wants to play, and it still plays with lots of grit.
"We know that we are not among the favorites," Tabarez said. "But we know if we prepare well we can be a tough team to play. This is where we are focusing our attention."