Captain Lugano carries the flag for Uruguay

By Giovanna Fleitas

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) - Defender Diego Lugano's physical presence and commitment to the team make him a natural to wear the captain's armband for Uruguay.

"We have an impressive history of captains who have been great sportsmen and gentlemen as well as just good players. So to be captain of Uruguay is a great honor and a great responsibility," Lugano told Reuters.

"Lugano is in the great tradition of Uruguayan leaders," said sports columnist Alfredo Etchandy. "Someone who will carry the flag in the most difficult moments."

In South Africa, Uruguay take on the hosts, France and Mexico and Lugano believes they could reach the semi-finals if their strikers hit form.

The 29-year-old Lugano's career began at a small local club and he was still playing as an amateur in regional leagues when many of his contemporaries were already enjoying the big time.

"At 18, I wasn't dreaming of being professional, I was playing amateur football, studying and working," he said.

The Brazilian fans idolized the Uruguayan import but in 2006 he left for Turkish club Fenerbahce.

Lugano has played 41 times for Uruguay, scoring four goals.

(Writing by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Clare Fallon)