Tactic Talk: Improved organisation continues to be the downfall of the South-American big guns

The quarter-finals of the Copa America saw the tournament blown wide open, with three of the early favourites eliminated in shock last eight results, as Brazil, Argentina and Chile all saw their campaigns end in disappointment. While the initial spotlight will be on the high-profile individuals on their way back to their respective clubs, it is worth considering the strides made by the continent’s lesser-recognised footballing nations.

As sides such as Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela look to build on their previous success, they will be looking to produce the same well-drilled displays that has brought them this far, at the expense of some of world football’s truest superpowers. As sides, particularly Brazil and Argentina boasted some of the game’s finest creative attacking talent, they ultimately found themselves blunted by the defensive steel of their opponents, failing to secure progression through 120 minutes of action, before succumbing to the proverbial lottery of penalties.

While Argentina’s Carlos Tevez and the four Brazil stars that stepped up ultimately cost their sides their semi-final places, it was the ultimate punishment for failing to break down the stubborn resistance of their opponents. As Argentina’s opponents, Uruguay were down to ten men after 38 minutes, at 1-1, the outcome certainly looked bleak, however, the Uruguayan defence continued to frustrate the Argentine attack courtesy of some heroic defending led by Fernando Muslera in the Uruguay goal, seeing out the remainder of regulation time as well as extra time, before Muslera took centre stage, to save from Tevez, in what proved to be the decisive spot kick. The Uruguay rearguard was crucial again last night with another clean sheet when they got the better of Peru.

Brazil also, saw a similar fate, with the typical expectations of a free-flowing, attacking team, the Brazilians found themselves frustrated by a stubborn Paraguay side. Despite mustering just a single shot on target, to Brazil’s eight, again, the Paraguay defence held firm, holding the five-time world champions and eight-time Copa America winners to a 120-minute stalemate. While facing hand-picked Brazilian players from the penalty spot would be a daunting task for most keepers. Fortunately for Paraguay keeper, Justo Villar, he only faced four, saving from Thiago Silva, while Elano, Andre Santos and Fred all failed to hit the target from 12 yards, as Paraguay won the shootout 2-0.

While taking a game to penalties is a gamble for any side, with the winners at times not reflective of the game itself, the increased level of organisation among the semi-finalists in particular, has managed to stifle some of world football’s most high-profile stars. While this may not always produce the most attractive of styles, this defensive setup takes away the control that sides such as Brazil and Argentina would usually look to command. With the final approaching, whatever the outcome, the trophy will certainly have an unexpected name on it, but whichever side emerges victorious, the level of organisation and defensive tenacity, will certainly have proved vital.

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