The tournament in Brazil will be the second World Cup in your career. Were you able to take any lessons away from your time in South Africa in 2010, that will help you prepare for this year?
Yes, experiencing a World Cup gives you an understanding of how to tackle a tournament like this. The biggest lesson is knowing that we’re going to play against some great national teams and that the most important match is the first one, because that sets the tone of how you play in the group stage. The biggest goal for each team, mine as well, is winning that match and securing a spot in the next stage of the World Cup.
The match against Ghana in South Africa that brought you to the semi-finals of the tournament was one of the most intense matches of the 2010 World Cup. How do you remember this match, the emotional ups and downs and the celebrations after the penalty shoot out victory?
It was amazing, because it was one of the most exciting matches that I’ve experienced, for everything that happened: we started out losing, we turned things around. To be playing against Ghana with the entire continent supporting them and to be able to turn it around when they got a penalty off a handball in the last minute of injury time – can’t be described. Then to win it on penalties with a Panenka-style goal, it was amazing. It was one of the most incredible matches I’ve played. We then celebrated but were thinking about how to face the semi-final. For us, we couldn’t imagine playing in a World Cup semi-final, we had a great time and we almost made it to the final.
Do you think the current team is better than the team that played in 2010? Has something changed after making it to the semi-finals in 2010, and winning the Copa America in 2011?
It’s not better or worse, it’s different. While there might be a difference in players it’s not much, because the same group has been playing together for many years. We might change one player for another but the base is more or less the same. This team was practically the core of the group that were fourth in the World Cup in South Africa, that won the Copa America and qualified for the World Cup in Brazil, and the team with which we hope to play really well because we have great players that have been playing together for many years.
People generally say ‘history repeats’. How big are your country’s hopes to repeat the historic victory at the World cup in 1950?
It’s the hope of an entire country, the excitement of an entire country. It was such an enormous feat, the greatest in world football: winning the World Cup in Brazil. But we’re focused on enjoying the World Cup; making it past the first round is the biggest objective of Uruguay and the rest of the teams and we don’t imagine ourselves beyond that. People are very hopeful because of what was, remembering that maracanazo, and because we’re very close to Brazil and many people from Uruguay can go to the World Cup.
In the group stage you will have to face Italy, England and Costa Rica. Which of these teams is the biggest threat?
I’d say Italy – it’s the national team with the longest history and the most titles and they’re doing things better now. They’re also a serious contender for the title, so we respect them a lot; we respect all the teams, but looking at the group I think Italy is the strongest. England has a great team. Costa Rica, who we’ve already faced, has also grown significantly over the past four years.
Will Mario Balotelli be especially difficult to look after? He has a reputation to score game-changing goals.
Yes, he’s going to be the big point of reference when we play against Italy. Balotelli is a great player who proves it on the pitch. And one of the biggest challenges to try and win that match is going to be controlling Balotelli, who is a leader and a player who can easily win games on his own.
How do you like the new PUMA national kit and the ACTV technology?
It’s very good technology, very modern. Obviously, PUMA was thinking about the best for Uruguay, so hopefully it will give us really good results in the World Cup.
Your teammate Cristian Rodríguez has promised to travel to San Cono on horseback if you were to win the World Cup. What will you do to mark the occasion?
I don’t know. I can’t imagine winning a World Cup or what one would do. It would be an immense joy to celebrate it with my teammates, friends, with my family, with everyone, but I’m not making any promises.