The atmosphere in the Estadio Mineiro ahead of the all-South American Confederations Cup semi-final between Brazil and Uruguay was electric. The continental champions squared off against the host nation with the crowd anticipating a breath-taking encounter and yearning for a Brazil win.
However, the decibel level at the venue seemed to have dropped after the opening exchanges as Oscar Tabarez’s side restrained their counterparts. Uruguay always have a plan when they face Brazil and things were no different this time around. They allowed them precious little time on the ball courtesy of their relentless pressing.
Setting up in a 4-3-3 formation, they were extremely organized and operated with a high work-rate. Even though they started with the attacking triumvirate of Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, the latter two put in exceptional shifts down the flanks. Cavani in particular shone for his tracking back and defensive contribution.
Uruguay put in a gritty performance
Meanwhile, between their three central midfielders, Uruguay did well to block the supply to Brazil’s own attacking triumvirate of Neymar, Hulk and Fred. Brazil’s creativity almost exclusively lies in the final third and blocking off the service to the attacking players meant nullifying their threat especially since they lack a playmaker in midfield.
However, despite carrying out their tactics well, Uruguay’s defense was eventually breached and to a certain extent, they had themselves to blame. Their negligence towards a few key features of their game betrayed the admirable work they put in.
The Uruguayan national team have been criticized for not making the most of their front three for the last couple of years. Forlan, Cavani and Suarez don’t usually feature in the same line-up and when they do, they always leave behind the feeling that they could have and should have done a lot better.
In this particular game, not only did they not link-up with each other enough but they were rarely in a position to. While their defensive responsibilities were important and served the team well, they needed to take more risks and be adventurous especially when the game was there for the taking at 1-1.
Their wealth of attacking talent was largely wasted
The three attackers were always too far apart from each other. Even when they managed to break on the counter, the forward on the ball was isolated and those forays forward quickly broke down. Cavani’s equalizer was a good finish and Uruguay had done well on that occasion to get bodies forward but it ultimately came from a Thiago Silva defensive error.
Suarez’s lack of involvement in Uruguay’s play was criminal. The striker was wasted in wide positions, often within his own half. Liverpool heavily relied on him last season to engineer openings out of nothing in the final third and he did so with aplomb. However he was rarely in a position to do the same in this fixture.
For a man who recorded the most number of dribbles inside the penalty area in the Premier League last season and the most attempts at goal as well, he needed to be far more advanced than he was. The Brazilian defense was there for the taking and with Suarez attacking their core, perhaps Uruguay would have found a way through more often.
After the equalizer, the South American champions made the mistake of retreating back into their shells. They seemed content with the prospect of extra-time and occupied themselves with avoiding a defeat. The introduction of Bernard in place of Hulk made Brazil’s play in the final third a lot more controlled and intricate. They began to enjoy long periods in possession and looked the more likely to score.
They paid dearly for a lapse in concentration after inviting pressure on themselves
Uruguay couldn’t have done much to prevent Fred’s goal in the first half. The pass from Paulinho was sublime and so was Neymar’s control while the ball fell kindly for Fred to finish. However, they were culpable for Paulinho’s late winner which they conceded from a corner no less after allowing the pressure on their goal to gradually build up.
The delivery from Neymar was on the money as usual but Fernando Muslera was caught in no man’s land. He came off his line only to misjudge the flight of the ball and back-peddle as the header from Paulinho came in. Meanwhile, the midfielder was under little pressure as Martin Caceres failed to get close enough to him despite tracking his run. The Brazilian was afforded a free header into a poorly guarded goal.
Forlan in particular will naturally rue his penalty which Julio Cesar saved but in spite of that, a more adventurous Uruguay might still have prospered. Brazil certainly didn’t put in a special performance as Neymar had a huge role to play in both their goals yet again. The hosts ultimately sneaked through unconvincingly and left their opponents to lament their hesitant approach.
|Could Uruguay have been more adventurous? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.|
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