It was a nervy start for Uruguay at the 2014 FIFA World Cup after falling to Giancarlo Gonzalez's Costa Rica in its opening match, but a triumphant 2-1 victory over England has eased the tension for La Celeste, if only for a moment. Now, a crucial match against Italy awaits Uruguay, and Crew midfielder/Uruguayan Agustin Viana has followed along for every step of the way.
"This is my first World Cup away from the country ... We live it in a special way," said Viana. "The people there have big emotions. They're ready to fight with this team and these players the way they give everything during the match. It's incredible. It's a nice experience. I am leaving my emotions with my wife and the kids there cheering for the team. I was excited."
The match against England was punctuated by elite striker Luis Suarez's return. The Liverpool forward's brace carried Uruguay to a much-needed victory.
"The way they played, the way Suarez came back and the way the players gave everything, it's emotional," said Viana. "They are giving everything for the shirt, the team and the country."
The importance of Suarez to Uruguay cannot be understated — against England, there were numerous signs in the crowd by Uruguay fans showing their support for Suarez's return from injury, and his triumphant reaction upon scoring the match-winner speaks to that passion. Viana was a teammate of Suarez's in 2006 with Nacional Montevideo in Uruguay, right when Suarez was starting his professional career as a 19-year-old.
"He's really an incredible guy. Day in and day out, he's trying to do his best. He's really competitive," said Viana. "Whenever he's playing, he wants to win and it's really emotional because 30 days ago he was in a wheelchair. The way he came back, only he can do that. It's emotional the way he plays every match, every training session. He gives everything of himself and he has the quality to do what he does. He's really good."
On three points, Uruguay next meets similarly situated Italy in a match that is a de facto play-in game for the Round of 16. Uruguay would lose the goal-difference tiebreaker should the sides draw, so La Celeste needs a victory to progress.
"We know we can win, but it is a really difficult match," said Viana. "The players are saying the [knockout round] has already started, that the next round starts now. I think it will be an interesting match but it will be really, really difficult because Italy will change some things. They have a lot of quality players.
"I am sure that this group of players will give everything they have to win, for them and for the country. That's special."