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The History of Numbers: Uruguay

The History of Numbers: Uruguay

There are many different historical numbering systems, based on how formations evolved in each country, and it could be argued that Uruguay’s is one of the most logical.

Uruguay won two of the first four World Cups, including the inaugural edition as hosts in 1930. Shirt numbering wasn’t in operation then, but when it did come into widespread usage, Uruguay were the same as the rest of the world in numbering left-to-right in the old 2-3-5 system:

Other countries transitioned from the 2-3-5 to four-man defences via the W-M, and that is where discrepancies in numbering arose, as different players would drop back in different countries, keeping their original number.

While the Uruguay team which won in 1950 in Brazil would have the front half of the W-M, they adapted differently in defence, moving directly from two men to four. As a result, it made sense for the right and left halves – numbers 4 and 6 respectively – to become wide defenders, outside the full-backs, 2 and 3. As in Argentina and Brazil, 5 remained as the midfield fulcrum.

Over time, 7 and 10 would retreat to midfield to join 5 and 8, but by and large it’s a numbering system which remained strong in Uruguay, as can be seen from this line-up, chosen at random, from a 1989 Copa America tie with Argentina:


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  1. Paul
    April 24, 2019 at 01:14 — Reply

    Hello, friends. Congrats for the blog, is excellent. I´m Uruguayan and I want to say that the information in the article is accurate. And I always believed the same thing: that the Uruguayan numbering system was the most logical of all. It was always hard for me to understand why Spain or England used to give number 4 to the central midfielders (for us, it will always be number 5) , or why the full backs were 2 and 3 (“our” central backs) or 5, until I could study it and I understood it.

    I want to share a curiosity: although the Uruguayan national football team (basically) always used that numbering system in the 4-3-3 formation (1; 4-2-3-6; 8-5-10; 7-9-11), from the late sixties until the early nineties, Nacional, probably the most important and historical club in Uruguay, three times world champion (Intercontinental, currently FIFA World Cup), used to number their shirts differently:

    Goalkeeper: 1 (“logical”)
    Right full back: 2
    Centre back: 3 (stopper)
    Centre back: 4 (libero or sweeper)
    Left full back: 5
    Right midfielder: 8 (“logical”)
    Central midfielder: 6 (nooooo!)
    Left midielder: 10 (“logical”)
    And the classical: 7, 9 and 11.

  2. June 24, 2018 at 17:07 — Reply

    […] Read More […]

  3. June 19, 2018 at 16:40 — Reply

    […] História do sistema de numeração do Uruguai […]

  4. Alex Howells
    June 16, 2018 at 04:37 — Reply

    Still using same numbering system in 2018. Against Egypt today the back four from the right were numbered 4-2-3-22. Only the left back being out of normal Uruguay numbering. Number 5 came on as midfield sub.

  5. Alex Howells
    September 3, 2016 at 21:33 — Reply

    I believe Uruguay transitoned from 2-3-5 to a 4-3-3 formation even before Brazil introduced 4-2-4 at the 1958 World Cup. YouTube of Uruguay v England at the 1954 World Cup shows Uruguay lining up for the kick off with a flat back four and captain Varela number 5 just behind a five man forward line. As the game develops the two inside forwards drop into midfield to make a three man line. Also it is clear that Andrade the black number 4 is playing as right back against Tom Finney the England number 11.

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The History of Numbers: Uruguay