Tabarez looks to pass final World Cup exam

AFP| Last Updated: May 14, 2014, 11:02 AM IST

Oscar Tabarez enters his third and probably final World Cup finals as Uruguay coach hoping his players can go one better than four years ago and reach the final.

However, he is adamant that emulating the remarkable defeat of Brazil by their forebears in 1950 World Cup final in the Maracana stadium is not foremost on his or the players minds.

The 67-year-old former school teacher -- who is nicknamed the `Maestro` -- faces a tough task to even reach the knockout round, as they have been drawn in Group D with fellow former champions Italy, England and minnows Costa Rica.

Tabarez, who has coached club sides such as Italian giants AC Milan and historic Uruguayan outfit Penarol does not join those who look back to Uruguay`s 1950 victory over Brazil, the last time the tournament was held in Brazil. The host nation has still not got over the shock.

"I don`t pay it any heed and anyway, I already went through all that in 1989, when we lost the final game of the Copa America over there against Brazil," he told the FIFA.com website.

"`El Maracanazo` (the Portuguese nickname for Maracana defeat) has its place in history and is unique, but it`s not something we have to live up to," he added.

Tabarez has remained loyal to the majority of the players that he selected four years ago, even though some such as 33-year-old central defender and captain Diego Lugano are starting to show their age, and went on from the World Cup semi-finals to win the Copa America the year after.

Tabarez staunchly defends his policy of sticking with his group of players.

"When someone suggests a player (to be selected) they should also tell me who I`m supposed to drop! It has to be taken into consideration that you have to work with a set number of players and build a squad," he told FIFA.com in an interview in 2012.

"Those are all things that give us stability. So, making changes every chance you get isn`t a good thing. And we look for our players, whether at senior or youth level, to fit a certain profile, which is something we`ve been praised for."

Tabarez, who cuts a dapper and largely unflappable figure on the touchline, has remodelled the image of the team too from totally remodelling the term `garra` or claw that has defined their football sides over the decades.

Previously `garra` had been taken literally and successive Urguayan sides were more renowned for their brutal and physical approach than bringing anything creative to the `beautiful game`.

However, Tabarez -- who had an unspectacular playing career as a defender -- bringing his more scholarly approach to the post, deployed in his first spell in charge of the national team which culminated in an appearance at the 1990 World Cup, has instead taught the players `garra` is more about beating opponents through mental strength and self belief.

Tabarez, who belies the notion that modest players don`t make good coaches, is certainly not out of the Jose Mourinho coaching school of belittling opponents or playing mind games ahead of big clashes, not for him the catchy soundbite but a simple philosophy.

"The road itself is the reward," is his often-cited mantra in that the path you take is more important than the results on the pitch.

With strikers of the quality of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani there is the possiblity that this road might indeed be paved with World Cup gold.