Uruguay’s most accomplished player doesn’t deserve a place in the starting line-up in Saturday’s quarter final match against Venezuela, as this most gifted of players has too often failed to live up to expectations.
Alvaro Recoba came up through the ranks at Danubio and moved to local giants Nacional in 1995, where the Montevideo-born striker hit the net 17 times in 33 matches and dazzled fans with his breathtaking skills. El Chino – his face looks a bit Asian – then moved to Italy’s Inter Milan where, in his first match, he outshone fellow debutant Ronaldo, scoring two stunning goals against Brescia.
But individual moments of brilliance have been few, and far between. His scoring dropped off after 2000 and he has been plagued by injuries, and the player seems to set leave the Nerazzurri this summer.
It’s his performances for the national team that have been the most frustrating. Recoba is Uruguay’s fifth-most capped player, with 66 matches under his belt. But with 11 goals he doesn’t figure on the top ten list of goal scorers.
Recoba is symptomatic – or possibly a reason – for Uruguay’s lackadaisical approach to international football in recent years. The 14-time winners of the Copa America – the last came in 1995 – seem to rest on their laurels, occasionally stepping up for big matches against arch rivals Argentina and Brazil but otherwise relying on a last ditch attempt to squeeze through.
It’s a minor miracle Recoba’s even showed up this time, as his last appearance in Copa America was ten years ago. Like many European stars, he’s preferred to take a break rather than travel to the Copa. But this may be the international swansong for Recoba, who is now 31.
So far, it hasn’t been too promising. Out for the first match because of a minor injury, Recoba wasn’t played in the Bolivia match until the final 20 minutes against Venezuela, where his first touch nearly gave away a goal. Recoba has apparently been annoyed by coach Oscar Tabarez’s priorities. Saturday could be the last opportunity for Recoba to shine on the world stage; chances are he won’t.