Judgement day awaits Uruguay on Tuesday, with La Celeste looking in far better shape than several more fancied outsiders at this stage of the competition. A point from their final group game with Mexico will be sufficient to see the team through to the second round, and with that in mind a number of fresh dilemmas face Coach Oscar Tabarez – most of them centred around whether he should play it safe or gamble in terms of team selection, tactics and approach.
With opponents Mexico also needing a draw to progress, the possibility of the teams conspiring to play out a mutually convenient result, as West Germany and Austria did so infamously in Spain in 1982, has predictably been raised in certain circles. Tabarez has somewhat mischievously failed to entirely dismiss these suggestions, remarking somewhat ambiguously: “if
There is a strong case for retaining the finely-balanced starting 11 that demolished South Africa on Wednesday, with a disciplined, solid defence and midfield allowing a trio of quality strikers to flourish. However, in declaring his desire to see even further improvement from his team, Tabarez has hinted that he may once again ring the changes. The physicality of Sebastian Abreu, for example, might cause the Mexican defence problems if deployed alongside Luis Suarez, although Edinson Cavani could count himself unlucky to find himself dropped after his impact in the victory over Bafana Bafana. In defence, much will depend on the fitness of Jorge Fucile. Much-maligned following an indifferent season at Porto, Fucile excelled at left back in Uruguay’s last game with a courageous, energetic performance which helped the team to keep a second consecutive clean sheet. If he does not recover in time from the injury that saw him stretchered off in the 72nd minute of the South Africa game, El Maestro may be forced to gamble on the fitness of Martin Caceres – yet to feature thus far in the tournament but who offers pace, strength, and a versatility that may yet prove invaluable.
As usual, Diego Forlan will be key to everything La Celeste hope to achieve. At 31, “Caschabasha”’s stock only seems to be rising. Arguably the player of the tournament so far, it is he who makes Uruguay tick, not just with his killer instinct but with his vision and foraging runs, always looking to create chances for his strike partners. One concern however, might be the extent to which Uruguay rely on the Atletico striker. At the moment, it seems very much the case that stopping Forlan stops Uruguay, and it remains to be seen if there is a Plan B in place should any misfortune befall their talisman.
With just a point required, it will be interesting to see if the Uruguay Coach reverts to the cautious 3-4-1-2 used in La Celeste’s opening Group A game with France, or if the margin of their dominance against the hosts in Pretoria has convinced Tabarez that the 4-3-1-2 formation deployed in that game is the way forward from now on. If he gets the big decisions right, Oscar Tabarez will cement his place in history as the first Uruguay Coach to lead La Celeste since the man in charge of their Italia ’90 campaign. His name? Oscar “El Maestro” Tabarez.