With the 2014 FIFA World Cup finally underway, we bring you the next in an in-depth series of match previews that centre on tactics, team selections and predicted XIs.
Uruguay vs. Costa Rica is the second game of Group D and the third on an action-packed June 14, so let's take a look at the blockbuster fixture of the day.
How Uruguay Will Shape Up
Uruguay are as tough to predict as Italy are, with Oscar Tabarez favouring an unpredictable approach to tournament football.
That speaks volumes of his ability as a manager. His squad is so tight-knit and limited in terms of depth that he hasn't been able to call upon a vast array of multi-talented players—he's had to coach them himself.
It seems reasonable that La Celeste will line up in a 4-4-2 formation when facing minnows Costa Rica, and the anticipated absence of Luis Suarez aids the prediction. Tabarez can send out a flat formation with two lethal strikers in Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani to get the job done.
Uruguay have never been a possession team; they score lots and concede few and don't concern themselves with how much of the ball they enjoy.
How Costa Rica Will Shape Up
Costa Rica are a careful, somewhat negative outfit who know their limitations and play to their strengths.
Manager Jorge Luis Pinto crafted a 5-4-1 formation throughout World Cup qualifying that's founded on an outrageously stubborn defence, going 476 minutes without conceding at one stage before a deflected Clint Dempsey penalty beat goalkeeper Keylor Navas—in the middle of a blizzard!
Johnny Acosta, Giancarlo Gonzalez and Michael Umana will play as a three-man line; Junior Diaz will likely fight off the challenge of Roy Miller for left-wing-back; Christian Gamboa completes the setup on the right-hand side.
The two first-choice central midfielders, Celso Borges and Yeltsin Tejeda, are known for their flair on the ball but play thoroughly disciplined roles under Pinto. Alvaro Saborio misses the tournament, so Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz are assured of starting roles.
Costa Rica are far from a possession-based team, but their pass accuracy in the final third is excellent; they're a classic sucker-punch counterattack team.
3 Tactical Clashes
1. How Many Defensive Midfielders?
Ideally, Tabarez will field two midfield destroyers to lock down the centre of the park and allow his front four to really express themselves.
That's typically Rios and Perez, but are both truly necessary against an overly defensive opponent? The decision to play one comes with risk and reward, but if it's 0-0 after 70 minutes with both on the field, La Celeste will be up against it with only themselves to blame.
How many holding players will Tabarez opt for?
2. Movement Without Suarez
For obvious reasons, Luis Suarez is a key player for Uruguay, and his movement has become crucial to the way the team rotates and surges forward.
His ingenuity will be missing for at least one game, and there's no obvious, direct replacement for him in the side. Forlan is clever but slow, while Cavani is not quite a pure poacher but closer to it than most.
The creative keys, therefore, are placed in the woefully inconsistent hands of Gaston Ramirez. Can the Southampton man, so often benched due to his tactical rigidity under Mauricio Pochettino, come up trumps?
3. Behind the Full-Backs
Uruguay's flat-back four is not without its risks, and if Tabarez opts for a sole anchor or pushes Maxi Pereira too far forward, Costa Rica will spy gaps.
Campbell showed in the Champions League how effective he is running into space, and if he can slide in behind Pereira or square up Martin Caceres (LB) one vs. one, La Celeste will be in trouble.
To avoid this, getting touch-tight on Campbell and sticking a destroyer on Ruiz (playmaker) would go a long way.
Bleacher Report will do a tactical preview and review of every single 2014 FIFA World Cup game.
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