Less than six months before the start of the World Cup in Qatar, Uruguay bid farewell to its fans on Saturday at the crowded Centenario stadium with a 5-0 victory over Panama.
Edinson Cavani, Celeste’s second goal scorer and who is preparing for the fourth consecutive World Cup and perhaps his last, scored his first two goals in the 39th and 48th minutes.
Cavani said after the match, who opened the account at the end of the first half by taking advantage of a loose ball in the area and added the second penalty kick at the start of the sequel. “At the moment I enjoy it and do it with the same desire.”
Nicolas de la Cruz, Maximiliano Gomez and Diego Rossi scored the other three goals in the 58th, 68th and 77th minutes on a cold but festive night.
The big absentee at the farewell ceremony was Luis Suarez, Charua’s all-time top scorer, who remained in Spain after a knee treatment. Suarez, who is 35 like Cavani, will also play the World Cup for the fourth consecutive time and almost certainly the last. These two goalscorers left their clubs in Europe at the end of the season and are looking for new teams.
“It hurts me to miss the farewell, but I’d rather not miss the World Cup,” Suarez said.
It wasn’t veteran defender Diego Godin, nor the other player to make his fourth World Cup finals debut, nor striker Darwin Nunez, who would be on the cusp of a multimillion-dollar signing with Liverpool.
Uruguay will face Portugal, Ghana and South Korea in the group stage in Qatar.
De la Cruz scored the third goal by shooting a ball that rebounded from the Panama defense from outside. Gomez scored the fourth goal by connecting a pass from Damien Suarez easily into the area and Rossi closed the strike with a header.
Two-time world champion La Celeste had defeated Mexico 3-0 and tied 0-0 with the United States in their recent friendlies. With the win over Panama, coach Diego Alonso extended his unbeaten streak at the helm of Uruguay to seven.
Panama, who were eliminated in the CONCACAF eight final against Qatar, emerged at the last minute as contenders to bid farewell to the South American team, although other contenders such as Jamaica were initially mentioned.
Alonso took the helm in January following the departure of the esteemed Oscar Tabarez and at a time when Uruguay was out of Qatar. With “Maestro” Tabarez at the helm, La Celeste consecutively attended the World Cups in South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018. He finished fourth in South Africa.
“Reader. Beer practitioner. Web expert. Subtly charming travel geek. Friendly music specialist.”