Uruguay vs. Costa Rica: Key Selection Decisions for Oscar Tabarez
The fitness of Luis Suarez is the main doubt for Oscar Tabarez in the build-up to Uruguay’s 2014 World Cup opener against Costa Rica on Saturday.
Uruguay have a settled team, with Tabarez likely to utilise the 4-4-2 formation that helped them over the line to qualification. That is how his side lined up in both of their pre-World Cup friendlies and is also the formation they have trained in this week.
Suarez aside, Tabarez has a few other personnel calls to make prior to kickoff on Saturday.
Here are his key selection decisions ahead of Uruguay’s Group D clash with Costa Rica.
Whether to Take a Risk on Luis Suarez
The Guardian reported on Wednesday that Luis Suarez is making good progress in his recovery from knee surgery. He has undertaken triple shifts to ensure he returns to action as soon as possible.
There is an outside chance he could be ready to face Costa Rica, although Tabarez is highly unlikely to risk him from the start. In all probability, Tabarez will begin with Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani and call on Suarez from the substitutes bench if Uruguay are in need of a goal later in the match.
Forlan and Cavani were not particularly impressive against a defensive-minded Northern Ireland side in Uruguay’s first pre-World Cup friendly, but combined well for the opening goal in the 2-0 victory over Slovenia that followed it.
Forlan did miss training earlier this week with a stomach bug, but, as per Tenfield (in Spanish), is now recovered and ready to line up alongside Cavani on Saturday.
Gaston Ramirez or Christian Stuani
Gaston Ramirez started on the right of midfield in both of Uruguay’s two warm-up matches. He had some bright moments but did not have a concrete impact on either fixture.
In direct contrast, Christian Stuani scored as a substitute in both matches and could now be in line to take Ramirez’s place on Saturday.
Tenfield (in Spanish) report that Stuani has been fielded in the first-choice XI in the training sessions leading up to the fixture.
Martin Caceres or Alvaro Pereira
Costa Rica are likely to sit deep, soak up pressure and try to hit Uruguay on the break—the same approach Uruguay use to such great effect when they themselves are the underdogs.
Uruguay struggled to break down a defensively aligned Northern Ireland side in the first of their pre-World Cup friendlies and indeed, they often struggled when expected to take the initiative during the qualifiers.
If Tabarez wants to add some extra width and pace to his side’s attack, Alvaro Pereira could be a good option.
Martin Caceres is the usual occupant of the left-back slot, but the Juventus defender is more comfortable in his defensive duties than he is going forward. He is also right-footed and therefore tends to slow Uruguay’s attacks when he does venture into the final third.
Pereira, on the other hand, offers powerful forward running from deep and is also capable of delivering good quality crosses into the penalty area. He is not as defensively sound as Caceres, but that is unlikely to be a major consideration against Costa Rica.
Whether to Squeeze Nicolas Lodeiro into the Side
Tenfield (in Spanish) report that Tabarez worked very closely with Nicolas Lodeiro during Wednesday’s training session, stopping him at various junctures to pass on detailed instructions.
Lodeiro made a strong impression off the bench in the first of Uruguay’s warm-up matches, accelerating the pace of their attacking play and having a couple of decent efforts on goal. He possesses a creative energy unmatched by Uruguay’s other midfield options.
It remains most likely that Tabarez will call on Lodeiro from the bench if things are not going as planned, but there is an outside chance he could start alongside Egidio Arevalo Rios in central midfield. In that scenario, Walter Gargano would drop to the bench.