2014 World Cup Tactics Board: Analysing Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay

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2014 World Cup Tactics Board: Analysing Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay
Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

Welcome to the latest instalment of our 2014 FIFA World Cup series, where we take an in-depth look at every nation and assess their tactical set-up ahead of the finals in Brazil.

This time we're seeing what Uruguay have to offer, winners of the 2011 Copa America and still with legendary manager Oscar Tabarez leading them.


Uruguay left it late to book their spot at the World Cup but eventually came through their CONMEBOL qualifying group to win a play-off place.

The 16-game long qualifying league in South America meant Uruguay had the chance to overcome a poor start, where they won only three of their first 11 games.

At that point they were looking a poor bet to make their third finals in four tournaments, but wins over Venezuela, Peru, Colombia and Argentina in the last five saw them amass 25 points all told, comfortably enough for fifth place and in the end only behind automatically qualifying Ecuador on goal difference.

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In the intercontinental playoff, Uruguay cruised through 5-0 on aggregate against Jordan.

The summer of 2012 also saw them take part in the Confederations Cup, where they finished second in their group before losing to eventual winners Brazil in the semifinal.

Formation and Style

Tabarez has a fairly set playbook for his nation to use, but opts for a number of different formations to try and overcome the opposition.

At times he will set Uruguay up in a diamond midfield, while other matches might see a flat 4-4-2 or even a 4-3-3. Uruguay have been known to play with a back three over the past few years too, but these occurrences are infrequent and Tabarez also tends to change system within a game if results aren't going according to plan.

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In any of the above instances, a ferocious and hard-working central zone protects the defence, while the forwards are often asked to create their own danger, with perhaps help from the second line of attack in Cristian Rodriguez, Nicolas Lodeiro or Gaston Ramirez.

At times only one of these may start games, other times two might feature depending on the formation.

Uruguay attempt to make themselves very difficult to break down, often with a deep defensive line to make the most of an experienced, but slow, defence.

In Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, Uruguay possess a hugely potent strike force capable of creating and scoring against any defence. With Diego Forlan still around to back them up, goals are most certainly something they have in their locker—though few outside the front players contribute regularly.


Reasons for Hope

One of the greatest strengths (and a longer-term weakness) of this Uruguay team is its longevity and consistency.

With only one or two alterations, this is essentially the squad which won the Copa America almost three years ago. As such, they have extensive experience at international level; indeed, Tabarez could field a starting XI in the World Cup with well over 800 combined caps to their name.

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The current form of Liverpool forward Luis Suarez is an obvious reason to expect good things from Uruguay; the attacker is scoring at a rate of easily more than a goal per game this season and shows no signs of slowing down so far.

Tabarez's ability to read into a game and make subtle adjustments to his team is also a point worthy of note, as is the innate trust in him that his side has.

Reasons for Concern

The strength is also a potential weakness: If key members of the squad are injured or in poor form, too few new faces have been blooded to replace them.

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Slow, ageing defenders will eventually be found out and Uruguay will be hoping that doesn't happen at the finals. The reliance on the front two (or three) for goals is also a problem; in the tight group stage, it could only take a game or two of misfiring forwards to effectively eliminate Uruguay from the World Cup.

There will also be an element of expectation because the World Cup is taking place on their own continent that they have an impact, certainly to make it to the knock-out phase and preferably a significant distance through it.

One final reason for potential concern is the lack of real impact at international level that the creative midfielders such as Lodeiro and Ramirez have managed to have over the past few years. One coming up trumps for a month in Brazil could make a huge, huge difference to the team's prospects.

Conclusions and Predictions

Uruguay could genuinely be contenders to reach the last four—but could almost as easily crash out winless in the group stages, they are that difficult to predict.

Nonetheless, a far better end to the qualifying campaign will give them a boost, coming after a passable Confederations Cup performance and with some key players right in form.

They've been handed a tough enough group alongside England, Italy and Costa Rica, but they'll fancy their chances of progression. 

Pre-draw Prediction: Round of 16

Post-draw Prediction: Quarterfinals

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