Uruguay Camp Focus – Three-pronged attack gives hosts nightmares

Uruguay are firmly in the Group A driving seat thanks to Wednesday night’s comfortable 3-0 victory over the hosts in Pretoria. Coach Oscar Tabarez thoroughly delivered on his promise of adding a “new dimension” to the team as La Celeste, so pedestrian in last Friday’s stalemate with France, tore into South Africa, dominating from start to finish. El Maestro tweaked the 3-4-1-2 system deployed in Uruguay’s opening game, opting this time for a 4-3-1-2 to counter the pace of the South African wingers: Modise and Tschabalala. Out went Mauricio Victorino and Ignacio Gonzalez, with Jorge Fucile and Edinson Cavani replacing them.

After the France stalemate, Tabarez opted for a different approach, playing Diego Forlan behind the strikers, Suarez and Cavani. The switch paid dividends. El Maestro managed to strike exactly the right balance, his rigidly disciplined defence and midfield first to virtually every ball while the three-pronged attack caused the hosts constant problems. The decision to deploy the talismanic Forlan in the enganche attacking midfield role was a masterstroke. The Atletico star has an impeccable football brain and was the creative hub for his team, always aware of where his opponents and team mates were and having the vision to spot a run or shooting opportunity that split second faster than anybody else. Forlan was everywhere. The quirks of the Jabulani had no effect on him as his venomous strike from distance, aided admittedly by a deflection, rocketed past Khune in the South African goal, while his clinching penalty with ten minutes remaining was as perfectly struck a spot kick as you will ever see.

The use of Forlan in the hole underlined El Maestro’s attacking intent going into the game. Offering far more of an offensive threat than Gonzalez, his presence up front meant that South Africa in going forward were always vulnerable to a counter attack, while adding extra firepower to La Celeste’s own attacking play. Elsewhere in attack, Luis Suarez, while still not managing to reproduce his Ajax form, was nevertheless much improved. Although he still frustrated at times with some selfish play, Suarez’s pace terrified the lumbering Bafana Bafana backline, who were continually forced to hack him down. In spite of the rough treatment meted out to him however, the youngster kept coming back to haunt South Africa, winning the late penalty that ultimately settled the game and crowning his performance with a delightful lofted ball across goal for Alvaro Pereira to complete the scoring.

Similarly, we did not see the best Edinson Cavani in his first world cup game, as his passing and in particular his finishing let him down on several occasions. Cavani’s alertness and work rate, nevertheless, did enough to keep the hosts on the back foot, and he showed the attacking threat and seeds of an understanding with his strike partners to almost certainly retain his place against Mexico.

Uruguay’s unsung heroes for a second consecutive game were holding midfielders Diego Perez and Egidio Arevalo Rios. Perez’s ruthless enforcing drove La Celeste forward, the Monaco man winning every tackle and letting no man get past him. Egidio meanwhile, has made an astonishing comeback to the international scene. Tabarez was castigated in some quarters for taking the Penarol player to South Africa in place of more celebrated names such as Jorge Martinez and “Cebolla” Rodriguez, but Rios has made himself an integral part of La Celeste’s world cup campaign. His composure on the ball, collecting it deep and starting counter attacks with his calm distribution, has been flawless. He and Perez offered the much-heralded Celeste strike force the protection they needed to flourish in the final third and put the hosts to the sword.

Suddenly, it seems that Uruguay have strength in depth in all areas. In attack, Nicolas Lodeiro is once again eligible for selection along with the record-chasing Sebastian Abreu. In midfield, Napoli’s Walter Gargano can cover ably for either of the holding players. Defensively, Barcelona starlet Martin Caceres is yet to make an appearance – while both Fucile and Victorino have pressed their own claims for a starting place with strong displays in helping Uruguay to two clean sheets. One man who is irreplaceable however, is Diego Forlan, a player worth his weight in gold – and on this form, who may have gold – in the shape of a boot – awaiting in his destiny.

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