MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - Defender Diego Lugano’s physical presence and commitment to the team make him a natural to wear the captain’s armband for Uruguay.
“We have an impressive history of captains who have been great sportsmen and gentlemen as well as just good players. So to be captain of Uruguay is a great honor and a great responsibility,” Lugano told Reuters.
Winners of the World Cup in 1930 and 1950, Uruguay’s heady days are in the past and Lugano has the task of leading a team known more for their tenacity and fiery temperament than for their refined technique back to the upper ranks of world soccer.
“Lugano is in the great tradition of Uruguayan leaders,” said sports columnist Alfredo Etchandy. “Someone who will carry the flag in the most difficult moments.”
In South Africa, Uruguay take on the hosts, France and Mexico and Lugano believes they could reach the semi-finals if their strikers hit form.
The 29-year-old Lugano’s career began at a small local club and he was still playing as an amateur in regional leagues when many of his contemporaries were already enjoying the big time.
“At 18, I wasn’t dreaming of being professional, I was playing amateur football, studying and working,” he said.
After moving from Plaza Colonia to Montevideo giants Nacional, he was snapped up by the mighty Sao Paulo of Brazil in 2002 and led the side to the Copa Libertadores and the world club title in 2005.
The Brazilian fans idolized the Uruguayan import but in 2006 he left for Turkish club Fenerbahce.
Lugano has played 41 times for Uruguay, scoring four goals.
Writing by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Clare Fallon