Uruguay without Suarez flatter to deceive as World Cup dark horses

The Celeste showed they are not currently a team capable of great things after being outplayed by the Central
By Robin Bairner in Fortaleza

For a team regarded by many as potential title challengers, Uruguay must go back to the drawing board following a dismal display against Costa Rica.

They may have claimed to be taking the Central Americans seriously before the Group D clash but there was little evidence of that as they were deservedly on the end of a 3-1 upset.

Uruguay, without Luis Suarez from the outset, scarcely looked a team capable of going deep in the competition, let alone being cast as dark horses to win.

Though they took the lead when Edinson Cavani converted a penalty after a rugby tackle on Diego Lugano as he sought to get on the end of a cross, there was little to admire from Oscar Tabarez’s side offensively.

The injured Suarez may have been absent - in his place came the ageing Diego Forlan, who provided experience but little dynamism - yet the absence of the Liverpool attacker was not the root cause of the problem. Had he been fully fit, he may only have masked deeper issues in a side which finished fourth in the previous World Cup.

Asked to make the play against opponents who simply had to be beaten, the South Americans proved incapable. Their midfield did not retain possession to allow attacks to be constructed, while it lacked any purpose in its play, leaving the wandering Edinson Cavani to act as a link with the veteran Forlan, who failed to reprise his status as the Golden Ball winner from South Africa.

Once Uruguay had edged ahead, there was little sign of a desire to further profit. Opportunities at the end of the first half were scarce, aside from a fine Keylor Navas save to athletically turn over a deflected Forlan shot, and at the start of the second period Uruguay were punished.

Joel Campbell was a menace to the South Americans from the outset, and it was the Arsenal striker who levelled with a vicious shot. Still, it was a goal that should not have come about, with the momentum of the break seemingly lost when play was held up in midfield. Nevertheless, the Ticos were still able to shuffle the ball to their right in sufficient time to outmanoeuvre an immobile defence.

Shortly afterwards, Uruguay were caught out once more as a free-kick to the back post saw Oscar Duarte dive bravely to head home.

Now, surely, Suarez would make an entrance. Tabarez claimed the forward had “no problems” in his press conference on Friday, yet he failed to emerge, raising further questions over his ability to face Italy and England.

Marco Urena deftly clipped a third past Fernando Muslera before the end as the Ticos provided the kind of offensive craft the match favourites could not.

Uruguay showed an inability to be able to play proactively, which they will need to do if they are to somehow win through to the knockout stages.

Costa Rica, meanwhile, have a reputation as quick starters, having won two of their previous three opening World Cup games, and though they have only once qualified, their smart counterpunching style may well trouble their other rivals in Group D.