Uruguay before its first match (official) v Argentina, July 1902
The team that won its second Gold Medal at the
In 1901, Uruguay played against Argentina in their first ever match, a close contest won by Argentina 3–2. Prior to 1916, Uruguay played more than 30 matches, of which all but one were against . The inaugural Copa America provided Uruguay with more varied opposition. Victories over and , along with a tie against Argentina, enabled Uruguay to win the tournament. The following year Uruguay hosted the competition, and retained the title by winning every game. The 1919 Copa América saw Uruguay's first defeat in the tournament, a 1–0 defeat in a playoff with Brazil which went to two periods of extra time, the longest Copa América match in history.
In 1924, the Uruguay team traveled to Paris to become the first South American team to compete in the Olympic Games. In contrast to the physical style of the European teams of the era, Uruguay played a style based around short passes, and won every game, defeating Switzerland 3–0 in the gold medal match. In the 1928 Summer Olympics, Uruguay went to Amsterdam to defend their title, again winning the gold medal after defeating Argentina 2–1 in the replay of the final (the first match was a draw after extra time). FIFA assumed the responsibility of the organization of the Football Games to be played by FIFA rules and the tournaments would be recognized as World Championships. It only happened twice (1924/1928 Summer Olympics Games) until the creation of its own FIFA World Championship, the FIFA World Cup, in 1930.
Following the double Olympic triumph, Uruguay was chosen as the host nation for the first World Cup, held in 1930, the centenary of Uruguay's first constitution. During the World Cup, Uruguay won all its matches, and converted a 1–2 half-time deficit to a 4–2 victory against Argentina at the Estadio Centenario. Due to the refusal of some European teams to participate in the first World Cup, the Uruguayan Football Association urged other countries to reciprocate by boycotting the 1934 World Cup played in Italy. For the 1938 World Cup, France was chosen as host, contrary to a previous agreement to alternate the championships between South America and Europe, so Uruguay again refused to participate.
Uruguay again won the World Cup in 1950, beating hosts Brazil in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. The decisive match was at the Maracanã Stadium in Brazil. Uruguay came from behind to beat the host nation in a match which would become known as the Maracanazo. Many Brazilians had to be treated for shock after the event, such was the surprise of Uruguay's victory.
Rodolfo Rodríguez raises the Mundialito
trophy won in January 1981
After their fourth-place finish in the 1954 World Cup, the team had mixed performances and after the fourth-place finish in 1970, their dominance, quality and performance dropped. They were no longer a world football power and failed to qualify for the World Cup on five occasions in the last nine competitions. They reached an all-time low and at one time ranked 76th in the FIFA World Rankings.
In 2010, however, a new generation of footballers, led by Luis Suárez, Diego Forlán and Edinson Cavani, formed a team considered to be Uruguay's best in the last four decades, catching international attention after finishing fourth in the 2010 World Cup. Uruguay opened the tournament with a goalless draw against France, followed by defeats of South Africa (3–0) in and Mexico (1–0) respectively, finishing at the top of their group with seven points. In the second round, they played South Korea, defeating them 2–1 with star striker Luis Suárez scoring a brace and earning Uruguay a spot in the quarter-finals for the first time since 1970. Against Ghana, the match finished 1–1, forcing the game into extra-time. Both sides had their chances at extra time but Suárez blocked the ball with his hand in the penalty area, earning Suárez a red card and earning Uruguay universal scorn. Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan missed the subsequent penalty, forcing the game to go into penalties where Uruguay would win 4–2, sending them into the last four. They played the Netherlands in the semifinals but were beaten 3–2. For the third-place match, they played Germany, again losing 3–2. This placed Uruguay in fourth place for the tournament, their best result in 40 years. Diego Forlan was awarded the Player of The Tournament.
A year later, they won the Copa America for the first time in 16 years and broke the record for the most successful team in South America. Luis Suárez ended up as the Player of The Tournament
In the 2014 World Cup Uruguay was placed in Group D alongside , England, and . They were upset by Costa Rica in the opening match, losing 3–1 despite taking the lead in the first half. They rebounded with a 2–1 victory over England, in which Suárez scored a brace right after coming back from an injury, and a 1–0 victory over Italy, placing them second in their group and earning a spot in the last 16. During the match against Italy, forward Luis Suárez bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on his left shoulder. Two days after the match, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee banned Suárez for nine international matches, the longest such ban in World Cup history, exceeding the eight-match ban handed to Italy's Mauro Tassotti for breaking the nose of Spain's in 1994. Suárez was also banned from taking part in any football-related activity (including entering any stadium) for four months and fined CHF100,000 (approx. £65,700/€82,000/US$119,000). In the round of 16, Uruguay played Colombia but were beaten 2–0, eliminating them from the tournament.
At the 2015 and 2016 Copa América, Uruguay, missing banned striker Luis Suárez, were eliminated in the quarter-finals and group stages respectively.