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Portugal vs Uruguay: Fede Valverde is an embodiment of the spirit of Garra Chharua

If Uruguay hope to make it beyond the group stage, they’ll hope Valverde channels his inner spirit when they take on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal tonight.

Uruguay's Federico Valverde celebrates scoring a goal.(REUTERS/Alberto Valdes/File Photo)

831 players, 32 teams and four matches per day – following the football World Cup can get a little overwhelming. For the next month, The Indian Express will cut through the clutter and handpick the biggest storyline of the day every morning.


Showcase game
Portugal vs Uruguay (Group H)
12.30 am (Tueday), Lusail Stadium

Has he got four lungs?

As with most things on social media, this comment – during the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool this year – too was a massive exaggeration. It, however, encapsulated the awe Fede Valverde generates every time he has the ball on his feet. Or even when he doesn’t.

Valverde stirs up these emotions week in, and week out in Spain. The Real Madrid midfielder is often tireless in possession. When he doesn’t have the ball, he’s almost always chasing down opponents, trying to win it back. According to whoscored.com, he has won possession ‘ninth-most times (12) in La Liga this season.’


The analysis underlined how impressive that stat is, ‘given that he plays for a side that enjoys an average of 58.2% possession, the third-most in La Liga.’

If Real have to seize control of a match, it’s Valverde they look up to.

Last week, the world got to see what this monster of a midfielder does for his club. Two moments stand out particularly – the first was a shot so powerful that when he hit the upright, the thud could be heard despite the noise in the stands; a bit like how Tendulkar’s straight drives would drown out all other sounds.

Moments later, when a South Korean player was trying to launch a run down the wings, Valverde sprinted a few yards, lunged forward and, dispossessed the opponent. And then, he got back on his feet, punched the air and celebrated the perfectly-timed tackle like a forward would celebrate a goal.

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Valverde is an embodiment of the unique Uruguayan spirit of garra chharua. The phrase describes the ability to overwhelming odds with dollops of fighting spirit. Uruguayans use this phrase to describe their team, which often punches above its weight in the World Cups. The word garra means claw, which represents the ability to fight with grit and tenacity, and chharua is a reference to the indigenous people who live in Uruguay.


Valverde has done just that – overcome odds with an incredible fighting spirit. Speaking to The Guardian last year, he had described how playing on gravel made him tough.

“In Uruguay, not every pitch is grass even in primera so imagine baby football. They’re dirt pitches, gravel. You go to take a corner and there’s an animal next to you. It makes you grow up, fight, stronger,” he was quoted as saying.

“It’s lovely to come back from a game with your face covered with dirt, hair solid with mud, boots full of stones. The most beautiful thing a kid can experience is to get on the bus every weekend in your kit, share that with friends and family.”

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Qatar’s lush green carpets might feel like a world away from his dirt pitches in Montevideo. But if Uruguay hope to make it beyond the group stage, they’ll hope Valverde channels his inner spirit when they take on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal tonight.

It’ll be a revenge match from Portugal’s point of view. At the 2018 World Cup, it was Edinson Cavani’s brace that ended Ronaldo & Co.’s campaign in the Round of 16. Now, Portugal have a chance to beat Uruguay, which would leave them on the brink of an early exit.

To say that Uruguay were flat in the goalless draw against South Korea would be putting it mildly – it was the first game since the turn of the century that did not have even one shot on target. Valverde, though, was an exception and lit up a drab affair with his spirited performance. Against a Portuguese side that has its vulnerabilities, as exposed by Ghana, the onus will fall on him.

Uruguay coach Diego Alonso has the likes of Cavani, Darwin Nunez, and Luis Suarez at his disposal. But it’ll be Valverde who’ll be expected to lift his side and bring them up to the fight once again.

Other fixtures on the day:

Cameroon vs Serbia, 3.30pm, Al Janoub Stadium

South Korea vs Ghana, 6.30pm, Education City Stadium

Subscriber Only Stories

Brazil vs Switzerland, 9.30pm, Stadium 974

First published on: 28-11-2022 at 08:00 IST
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