Oscar Washington Tabarez became the manager with most games coached with a single national team during this Copa America Centenario. The 69 year old nicknamed “el maestro” (the teacher) has been the coach of the Uruguayan national team for 173 games until today´s date. This impressive record has taken place over two different stints, since he first was elected as the Uruguayan head coach in 1988 right after he won the Copa Libertadores with Peñarol in 1987, however he quit just two years later. He then retook the job in 2006 and has been the coach until present day.
During his first stint as the head coach of the national team Tabarez managed to qualify Uruguay to the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and even managed to make it to the second round of the tournament. However, he opted to leave the team after this tournament due to personal reasons. His return as head coach of the national team came in a difficult moment for the Uruguayan team, since they had just failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, and there was instability in the team since there had been six coaches in six years from 2000 – 2006. Tabarez was meant to bring stability and provide mentorship for many young talents who had begun to make a name for themselves in the European leagues like Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.
Over the course of these 173 games Tabarez has had very respectable statistics since he has totaled 86 victories, 44 draws, and 43 defeats. A nearly 50% win rate for a team that is not only in one of the most difficult qualifying areas of the world, but is also a country with less than 4 million people. The style that has been more predominant for Tabarez has been a strong defense, and this can be observed from the fact that over the 173 games coached by the manager the team has allowed only 174 goals, just over a goal per game which is very impressive. Led by the duo of center backs of Diego Lugano and Diego Godin, the Uruguayans have managed to develop a reputation of being a team which is hard to score on.
Despite the recent disappointment after the first round elimination in the Copa America Centenario, Tabarez has usually managed to make his team compete at a high level in international competitions, since the Uruguayans finished fourth in the 2007 Copa America and won the competition in 2011 in the final against Paraguay. Also since Tabarez began his second stint as Uruguayan manager he has led them to two consecutive World Cups appearances including an impressive fourth place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This was the same tournament where the Uruguayan forward Diego Forlan won the Golden Ball for the best player of the competition.
A few months ago Tabarez surpassed Francisco Maturana for the head coach with most World Cup qualifying games in CONMEBOL. In the all-time list of head coaches with most international matches with any national team he is currently third behind German Bergi Vogts with 230 games and Lars Lagerback with 186 games until today’s date. Vogts was a classic in the international arena, he was the head coach of Germany for eight years, but during his career he also coached the national teams of Kuwait, Scotland, Nigeria and most recently Azerbaijan where he retired as a head coach in 2014. Lagerback is the current head coach of Iceland who are making their debut in a UEFA Eurocup this summer, before that he coached Sweden for nine years, and Nigeria for a few months. The fact that Tabarez’s third place have all been with one national team make it even more impressive, and there is no doubt that “el maestro” is one of the most experienced international coaches to have ever been part of the game.