Uruguay vs. Slovenia: 6 Things We Learned

Hugo Chavez BarrosoFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2014

Uruguay vs. Slovenia: 6 Things We Learned

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    Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

    Uruguay played their farewell game at the legendary Centenario Stadium and defeated Slovenia 2-0.

    Without Luis Suarez, but with Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan on top, the South Americans had a good demonstration of their offensive power in the last 60 minutes of the game after a slow start.

    Uruguay ended up outplaying Slovenia, and there are interesting aspects to highlight from the Uruguayan display, but it is important to keep in perspective that Slovenia didn’t represent the greatest challenge.

    Here are six things we learned from Uruguay’s victory.

Diego Forlan Can Still Contribute

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    Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

    The deep run that Uruguay had in South Africa was in large part thanks to Diego Forlan’s extraordinary performance. Even though he is now far from his prime, he can still contribute to Oscar Tabarez’s team.

    The winner of the 2010 World Cup Golden Ball still has enviable technique and is able to put the ball where he sets his eyes on.

    Almost all Uruguayan free-kicks and corner kicks were taken by Forlan on Wednesday night, and a good number of them ended up as dangerous plays in favor of Los Charruas. Uruguay’s second goal actually came off a corner kick.

    Not only is he good at setting the ball on set pieces, he can also do it in regular play. He made two particularly fantastic crosses for Edinson Cavani, who scored the first goal of the night thanks to one of those Forlan assists.

Uruguay’s Full-Backs Are Key for Their Offense

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    Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

    When attacking, Uruguay need to open the field with the incorporation of their full-backs if they want to get their opponents to fear their offense this summer.

    At the beginning of the game, it almost seemed that the lines of four defenders and midfielders formed by Uruguay were never going to break to try and add numbers in Slovenia’s half. That made Uruguay’s attack too flat and predictable.

    Once Maxi Pereira (right side) and Martin Caceres (left side) decided to go deep on the wings, Uruguay became significantly more dangerous.

    Uruguay’s first clear option to score came from a surprise run from Pereira ,who got a long ball down on the box and sent a crossed shot that ended up hitting the post. As the Uruguayan full-backs gained confidence going up front, Uruguay progressively became a different team.

Roster Depth

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    Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

    At the start of the second half, Tabarez came out with four substitutions. He took out centre-back Diego Godin, right midfielder Gaston Ramirez, central midfielder Walter Gargano and, more surprisingly, right full-back Pereira.

    Despite all the changes, Uruguay kept their pace from the end of the first half and even had a better performance as the minutes went by.

    For the most part, Uruguay’s bench players look sharp and ready to be in the starting lineup if needed. The two substitutes that impressed the most were Jorge Fucile, who replaced Pereira, and Christian Stuani who came in for Ramirez.

    Fucile had a relevant performance four years ago in the World Cup and showed that he can still be an important player in the upcoming World Cup campaign.

    Meanwhile, Stuani had two important offensive interventions on Wednesday, first with a volleyed kick that Samir Handanovic saved and later scoring the second goal.

The Importance of the Central Midfielders

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    Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

    It looks like Uruguay will be starting with Egidio Arevalo and Walter Gargano as the central midfielders at the World Cup, just like they did against Slovenia. In Tabarez’s tactical scheme, these men are critical.

    When Los Charruas weren’t looking good in the first half-hour of the game, it was to a certain degree because of the irrelevant performances of Arevalo and Gargano. Their performances weren’t necessarily bad, but they needed the support of others to be the team’s engine.

    In those early minutes, Arevalo and Gargano weren’t recovering the ball, distributing the game as they should and their pressure on the Slovenians wasn’t enough nor in the right place of the field.

    That wasn’t entirely their fault, as they weren’t getting the necessary help from their teammates.

    However, once the central midfielders found that pressuring higher up the field worked better and they got more support from the wings, Uruguay not only got more possession of the ball, but their dominance on the field was absolute.

Edinson Cavani as the Uruguayan Striker

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    Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

    The Paris Saint-Germain forward didn’t have his best game with La Celeste, but he still managed to score the opening goal and actively participated on the second one.

    If Luis Suarez isn’t ready for the World Cup, Cavani will have to take the lead role as the target man up top who is responsible of scoring. Cavani’s advantage is that he knows Forlan very well, so if they partner up top, adapting to each other won’t be an issue.

    Forlan made two great passes to Cavani. Edinson scored with a header on the first and tried a classy finish on the second one that went wide.

    Later on, thanks to Cavani fighting for a ball with Handanovic, Stuani was able to score the second Uruguayan goal.

    Cavani was mostly deployed on the wings in past years with Uruguay in order to have Suarez and Forlan as the two nominal strikers, and he did a good job. Now, the time has come for him to partner up with either Suarez or Forlan and be the key striker like he once was at Napoli.

Tabarez's Defensive Tactics

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    Matilde Campodonico/Associated Press

    Tactically, Uruguay play a 4-4-2. When applied defensively, it gives great results for the South Americans. The players, most of whom have played under Tabarez for years, understand where they need to move depending on where the plays are building up.

    The line of defenders is very well complemented by the midfield line and vice versa, managing to compress the areas for the attacking rivals.

    When the opposition has possession, Uruguay manage to have two defenders near whoever has the ball, obviously making defensive efforts easier for them.

    One of the most dangerous plays from Slovenia came when Andraz Kirm was able to beat two defenders on the right side with his speed. That play demonstrated the challenge of causing trouble to the Uruguayan back line, as he had to go through a couple of Uruguayans.

    The drawback to these two lines is that, in order to keep them tight, the tactic sacrifices attacking power.