MX23RW : Tuesday, February 19 15:43:54

FIFA World Cup countdown: Top 10 Uruguayan footballers of all time

As part of the countdown to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, Sports Mole takes a look at the top 10 players in the history of Uruguay.

While the likes of Brazil and Argentina have since established themselves as the powerhouses of South American football, it was Uruguay who paved the way for the continent on the world stage.

They had the honour of both hosting and winning the inaugural World Cup in 1930 before adding a second star to their badge 20 years later, upsetting hosts Brazil in the final in front of a record-breaking attendance. They have also won the Copa America more times than any other side and have two Olympic gold medals to their name for good measure.

Such success is made even more remarkable due to the size of the country. With a population of just 1.75 million people in 1930, they are by far the smallest nation to have ever won the World Cup. They continue to churn out top players, however, and hopes are high that they can reach the latter stages once again in Brazil.

Here, to continue our countdown to the 2014 tournament, Sports Mole looks at the top 10 players in the history of Uruguay.

10. Pedro Rocha (1961-74, 52 caps, 17 goals)

In a nation famed for their legendary exploits in the World Cup, Pedro Rocha holds a unique record in being the only Uruguayan to appear in four consecutive tournaments. He played for La Celeste at the 1962, 1966, 1970 and 1974 editions, while also turning out in the 1967 Copa America.

Playing just behind the striker, Rocha was renowned for his incisive passing and impeccable technique, as well as posing a major threat from dead-ball situations. At club level he was a key part of the all-conquering Penarol side of the 1960s before moving on to play for Sao Paulo in Brazil.

He picked up a host of honours during his distinguished 11-year spell with Penarol, including eight league titles and three Copa Libertadores. Later, with Sao Paulo, he helped the club to the first national championship in their history.

9. Jose Nasazzi (1923-37, 41 caps, no goals)

The leader of Uruguay's golden generation, Jose Nasazzi holds the enviable distinction of being the first player to ever lift the Jules Rimet trophy. He captained Uruguay to success at the inaugural World Cup in 1930, leading by example as his side came from behind to beat Argentina in the final.

The right-back had enjoyed plenty of success on the international stage before that tournament as well, winning gold at the 1924 and 1928 Olympics in addition to three South American Championship titles (later to be rebranded as the Copa America) in the space of four years.

Uruguay refused to defend their World Cup crown in 1934 in protest of a number of rejections four years prior, but they did win another South American Championship in 1935. Nasazzi was named the best player of the tournament that year, adding to the same award he won in 1923.

8. Enzo Francescoli (1982-97, 73 caps, 17 goals)

Uruguay international Enzo Francescoli in action against England on March 29, 1995.© Getty Images

As if Enzo Francescoli's legacy was not good enough after an impressive 15-year international career, France legend Zinedine Zidane revealed that the attacking midfielder was his idol when growing up and even went as far as to name one of his sons after him.

Nicknamed 'The Prince', Francescoli was the most-capped outfield player in Uruguay's history at the time of his retirement, although he has since slipped down to ninth in the overall rankings. His 73 appearances encompassed the 1986 and 1990 World Cups, while he also won three of the five Copa America tournaments he participated in.

He won six league titles in two different countries during his club career, while also picking up the Copa Libertadores with River Plate in 1996. Individually, he was named South American Footballer of the Year twice and was awarded the Copa America Golden Ball in 1983 and 1995.

7. Jose Leandro Andrade (1923-30, 34 caps, one goal)

Another member of Uruguay's golden generation, Jose Leandro Andrade was at the heart of the team's unprecedented success during the 1920s. He helped La Celeste to South American Championships glory in 1923, 1924 and 1926, as well as finishing second in 1927.

He was also a key member of the team that won Olympic gold in 1924 and 1928, earning the nickname 'The Black Marvel' that would later be bestowed upon the likes of Pele and Eusebio. His finest moment came at the 1930 World Cup as he helped Uruguay to the inaugural title, being named in the All-Star team and winning the Bronze Ball for the third-best player at the tournament.

At club level, Andrade won three league titles with two clubs, while also finishing as runner-up a further three times. Individually, he was named as the 29th-best player of the 20th century by the International Football Federation of History and Statistics (IFFHS).

6. Obdulio Varela (1939-54, 45 caps, nine goals)

Following in the footsteps of Jose Nasazzi, Obdulio Varela became the second (and last) Uruguay captain to lift the Jules Rimet trophy when his side triumphed against the odds in 1950. Hosts Brazil awaited his side in the decisive match of the tournament, with Uruguay needing a win and Brazil only requiring a draw.

As it was, Varela inspired his side to come from behind against the hosts in front of a raucous Maracana crowd that numbered more than 200,000 people, eventually running out 2-1 victors to claim the cup. Four years later they reached the semi-finals, but injury prevented Varela from taking part in the eventual 4-2 defeat after extra time to the 'Magical Magyars' of Hungary.

The holding midfielder also won the Copa America in 1942, while at club level there was plenty more silverware for him to celebrate. He won six league titles with Penarol in addition to 14 other competitions during an illustrious 12-year spell.

5. Luis Suarez (2007-present, 77 caps, 38 goals)

Liverpool striker Luis Suarez celebrates scoring for Uruguay at the World Cup against Mexico on June 22, 2010.© Getty Images

At just 27, Luis Suarez has plenty of time to challenge the upper echelons of this list and, the way he is going, he could well be top of it by the time he hangs up his boots. As controversial as he is brilliant, Suarez has established himself as one of the world's best players over the last couple of seasons.

The striker is already Uruguay's top goalscorer having found the back of the net 38 times in just 77 appearances for his country. He was an integral part of the 2011 Copa America-winning side, scoring four goals and being named Player of the Tournament as Uruguay won the competition for a record 15th time.

At club level he has won two league titles and two cups in three different countries and came close to firing Liverpool to their first ever Premier League crown in the season just finished. He was named both the FWA and PFA Player of the Year for his performances in 2013-14, ending the campaign with a record-equalling 31 league goals to his name. His participation in this summer's tournament hangs in the balance, however, after he underwent surgery on his knee recently.

4. Diego Forlan (2002-present, 107 caps, 36 goals)

Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan celebrates scoring Uruguay on July 07, 2007.© Getty Images

One place and two goals behind Luis Suarez in Uruguay's scoring charts is Diego Forlan, who also spent a notable spell in the Premier League during his career. His time in England didn't quite go to plan as he became a figure of much derision with Manchester United, but he more than rebuilt his reputation following his move to Spain.

There, he established himself as a prolific goalscorer, winning the European Golden Shoe on two occasions. He was also named man of the match in the victorious 2010 Europa League final with Atletico, adding that trophy to the Premier League title and FA Cup he won at Old Trafford.

At international level, Forlan was part of the side that won the 2011 Copa America, but arguably his finest spell came in the 2010 World Cup. His performances led to him being awarded the Golden Ball and being named in the All-Star Team of the Tournament that year as Uruguay reached the semi-finals. His tally of 107 caps makes him the highest appearance-maker in the national team's history, and he will be hoping to add to that total at this summer's tournament.

3. Luis Cubilla (1959-74, 38 caps, 11 goals)

While Luis Cubilla's international career coincided with a relatively barren spell for Uruguay, there was no such shortage of silverware for the winger at club level. In all, he picked up nine league titles and three Copa Libertadores during his time in his native country.

Those successes sandwiched a stint with Spanish giants Barcelona, where Cubilla added a Copa del Rey to his honours list. He retired with 16 major titles to his name yet surpassed that by becoming one of the most decorated managers in South American football history.

On the international stage, Cubilla's relatively small number of caps included three World Cups as he featured in the 1962, 1970 and 1974 tournaments. IFFHS named him the 11th-best South American player of the 20th century, above the likes of Ronaldo, Romario and Roberto Rivelino.

2. Hector Scarone (1917-32, 52 caps, 31 goals)

For 81 years, Hector Scarone stood alone as the highest goalscorer in Uruguay's history having found the back of the net 31 times in just 52 international appearances. Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez have both since overtaken him in the list, but he remains a towering figure in the national team's history.

Like Cubilla, Scarone enjoyed a stint with Barcelona during his club career, scoring 17 goals in 18 matches for the Spanish giants. He also featured for Inter Milan in Europe, but the vast majority of his career was spent with Nacional. There, he scored 301 goals in 369 matches, helping the team to eight league titles.

On the international stage he won the South American Championships four times as well as two Olympic gold medals, while he was a key part of the team that won the inaugural World Cup in 1930. His performances in that tournament led to him being named in the All-Star team.

1. Juan Alberto Schiaffino (1946-54, 21 caps, eight goals)

While Cubilla and Scarone both spent brief spells in Europe, Juan Alberto Schiaffino arguably played his best football during a six-year stint with AC Milan. At the San Siro, he won three Serie A titles and a Latin Cup, as well as being beaten by the all-conquering Real Madrid in the 1958 European Cup final.

Prior to his move to Italy, where he would take on Italian citizenship and play for the national team, Schiaffino featured in both the 1950 and 1954 World Cups for Uruguay. He had a particular impact in 1950, scoring the equalising goal against Brazil in the final as Uruguay upset the odds to win the competition for a second time.

Renowned for his technique and vision, Schiaffino also won four league titles with Penarol during his time in his homeland, all within a six-year spell. IFFHS named him the 17th-best player and the sixth-best South American of the 20th century.

Uruguay will face Costa Rica, England and Italy in the group stages of this summer's World Cup, and you can follow every match live with Sports Mole.

You can see all of the World Cup top 10 lists so far by clicking here.

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Who is the greatest Uruguayan footballer of all time?

Juan Alberto Schiaffino
Hector Scarone
Luis Cubilla
Diego Forlan
Luis Suarez
Obdulio Varela
Jose Leandro Andrade
Enzo Francescoli
Jose Nasazzi
Pedro Rocha
Juan Alberto Schiaffino
Hector Scarone
Luis Cubilla
Diego Forlan
Luis Suarez
Obdulio Varela
Jose Leandro Andrade
Enzo Francescoli
Jose Nasazzi
Pedro Rocha
Pele, when playing for Santos, smiles at the camera ahead of a friendly match on June 13, 1965
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Top 10 Brazilian players of all time

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