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Lugano: the model Uruguayan captain

Sports Desk |
Update: 2010-06-29 20:58:10

JOHANNESBURG: Diego Lugano may lead a rugged Uruguayan defence, but his male model-like good looks has his female fans swooning in front of the giant video screens set up back home in Montevideo.

The 29-year-old may not be the quickest of defenders but he uses his 6ft 1inch (1.86 metres) stature to good effect in the air - as has been seen during the Uruguayans run to their first World Cup quarter-final since 1970 - and his leadership qualities attracted coach Oscar Tabarez as soon as he took over the national side in 2006.

His qualities have also been recognised too by rival coaches, including Brazil`s demanding taskmaster Dunga.

"Lugano is an excellent defender," said Dunga prior to the 2007 Copa America semi-final which Brazil went on to win on penalties.

Lugano, who has played for Turkish giants Fenerbahce since 2006, collecting two league titles, has marshalled the defence here expertly after a hesitant start in the opening 0-0 draw with France.

The Uruguayans emerged from the group stages, not only as winners of it but having not conceded a goal in the three matches - something never achieved before under the Tabarez rule.

Lugano, whose worth to the defence is such that the heaviest defeat of a tough qualifying campaign a 4-0 reverse to Brazil came when he was suspended, held up his hands to being responsible for the South Korean goal which brought the sides level in their last 16 match last Saturday.

However, he claimed there were extenuating circumstances for his rare lapse which allowed Lee Chung-Yong the time to head the ball home.

"I did not want to take any risks in giving away a penalty," said the father of three, who receives a phone call from Uruguayan President Jose Mujica before each match.

"I couldn`t communicate with my defensive partners because with the racket going on from the stands they couldn`t hear me," added Lugano, who won the first of his 47 caps in 2003.

Uruguay eventually won the match 2-1 with a delightful second goal by Luis Suarez setting up a last eight clash with Ghana.

Lugano, who rubberstamped his credentials when his goal grabbed a 1-0 win over Costa Rica in the away leg of their World Cup play-off last November, has always believed that two-time winners Uruguay could do something special here.

"We can surprise people and go far in the finals... Semi-finals maybe. We have the potential to do so," he said back in January.

Friday`s match will see how accurate his prediction was.

BDST: 1736hrs, June 30, 2010

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