Luis Suarez Injury Threatens Tactical Flexibility for Uruguay at World Cup

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterMay 22, 2014

KLAGENFURT, AUSTRIA - MARCH 05:  Luis Suarez of Uruguay runs with the ball during the international friendly match between Austria and Uruguay at Woerthersee stadium on March 5, 2014 in Klagenfurt, Austria.  (Photo by Winnie Pessentheiner/Getty Images)
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Reports emanating from Uruguay have shrouded Luis Suarez's potential 2014 FIFA World Cup adventure in doubt, with the star striker suffering a knee injury during training with his nation.

The diagnosis, which has been confirmed by BBC Sport, is meniscus damage that requires keyhole surgery, and it's expected to keep him out for any time between 15 days and four weeks.

Should he miss any of la Celeste's minutes in Brazil, it would be a monumental blow, and while the Uruguayan Football Association (UAF) will insist it's not a worry, athletes have had trouble recovering in time for the tournament in the past.

A prominent example arrives in the form of Fernando Torres, who had meniscus surgery ahead of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, played seven weeks later and looked a shadow of his former self, starting the demise of his own career in the process.

Fears will abound over Suarez because of this precedent, but unlike many who will worry because his goals will be removed from the Uruguay equation, Oscar Tabarez will be more concerned about his reduced ability to flex his formation and tactics should Suarez miss out.

As England fans will no doubt discover in June, la Celeste are one of the most difficult footballing nations to play against because they constantly change their approach, dynamic and shape.

B/R's Karl Matchett outlined the possible forms they could take at the finals this summer—ranging through 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 3-5-2 and a midfield diamond—and a key point can be found in the squad Tabarez has picked: Experienced, highly capped and as versatile as they come.

The boss has his favourites, and the way to become a favourite is if you show an ability to play in two or three positions. Suarez can play up front or wide, Cavani the same, Diego Forlan across the line or as a No. 10, Martin Caceres all across the back four and Alvaro Pereira up the left side.

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY - NOVEMBER 20:  Luis Suarez of Uruguay runs with the ball during leg 2 of the FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Uruguay and Jordan at Centenario Stadium Stadium on November 20, 2013 in Montevideo, Uruguay.  (Photo by Friedemann Vo
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Every player in the squad, bar Diego Lugano and Diego Godin, can take up multiple positions, and that's especially important given that Tabarez often changes formation mid-game.

The ability to change your skin without making substitutions in tournament football is a godsend, and removing Suarez from the front line becomes an issue for Tabarez to battle, potentially even forcing him to tear apart his notes.

La Celeste have also settled into a regime of defending deep and working hard to protect their centre-backs in midfield, then freeing up Suarez and Co. to lead vicious incisive counters. The forwards more or less make their own chances in a system designed to defend first, and without Suarez's ingenuity this plan takes a hit.

Uruguay have next to no depth in their national pool—a product of both limited talent and Tabarez's favouritism—and that's highlighted by the presence of Sebastian Coates and Jose Maria Gimenez in the 25-man squad.

An ailment to Suarez could serve as a tipping point, plunging la Celeste from an experienced, close-knit squad to a depleted, wanting entity.

It may only be one player, but to lose Suarez of all players would be crushing for Uruguay.