Uruguay vs. Costa Rica: Film Focus on Oscar Tabarez's Awful, Turgid Attack

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 14, 2014

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 14:  Joel Campbell of Costa Rica celebrates scoring his team's first goal with the ball under his jersey during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Uruguay and Costa Rica at Castelao on June 14, 2014 in Fortaleza, Brazil.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images

Costa Rica notched the first giant-killing of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, downing Uruguay 3-1 in a remarkable encounter in Fortaleza.

Edinson Cavani gave la Celeste the lead with a penalty in the first half, but Los Ticos struck back with three super strikes in the second half. Joel Campbell, Oscar Duarte and Marcos Urena all scored. Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez equipped his team with a faulty approach, which the Costa Rica side exploited.


Starting XIs and Formations


Uruguay adopted a pretty basic 4-4-2 formation with Christian Stuani and Cristian Rodriguez on the wings. Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan dove-tailed up front, but they largely maintained a two-man front.

Costa Rica played their customary 5-3-2 formation with no personnel shocks. Yeltsin Tejeda and Celso Borges started in midfield with Campbell on his own up front.


Uruguay's Turgidity

Despite playing a relatively free-flowing 4-4-2 formation with interchanging players, Uruguay turned in a pretty static-looking showing.

They played a lot of long balls out of defence and diagonals into the channels, expecting the athleticism of Cavani, Stuani and Rodriguez to win out more of them than not.

Forlan would drop into the No. 10 space to receive, but the passes never came.

Uruguay's 4-4-2 in defensive phase.
Uruguay's 4-4-2 in defensive phase.ESPN

Costa Rica, experts at defending, began mopping up with ease, so la Celeste chose to work the right side by forcing the ball into Diego Forlan, Cavani and Stuani's feet instead.

Junior Diaz, Michael Umana and Co. had obvious issues with play on the left side, and the Ticos began giving away fouls in a flurry.


Joel Campbell: One-man Band

Costa Rica's offensive game plan was, in truth, exceptionally limited.

It involved pumping the ball into Campbell's feet after he'd found space between the lines—something he appears to be exceptionally good at—and letting him do his thing.

Egidio Rios and Walter Gargano had trouble locating him over the shoulder for long periods, as he slipped into the wide areas and then drifted back inward unattended.

FORTALEZA, BRAZIL - JUNE 14:  Joel Campbell of Costa Rica shoots and scores his team's first goal past Fernando Muslera of Uruguay during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group D match between Uruguay and Costa Rica at Castelao on June 14, 2014 in Fortaleza
Michael Steele/Getty Images

The rest of his game—close control, heading and linking—leaves a lot to be desired, though, and the Ticos really struggled to create sustained periods of pressure or goalscoring chances.

Nevertheless, Costa Rica took an astonishing lead in the second half, leveling through Campbell and then going ahead through a superb Oscar Duarte goal. Set pieces and commitment: That's all it took.



Tabarez immediately threw on Nicolas Lodeiro and Alvaro Gonzalez, placing the former up front alongside Cavani and the latter somewhere in midfield. Rodriguez continued to bomb forward on the left, but the critical change in terms of approach play was the use of Maxi Pereira.

The right-back has long been a weapon surging forward and holding the width, but the Uruguayan mysteriously spent the first 65 minutes reserved in his role. With a lead needed, the Benfica man began buccaneering down the wing with more regularity and getting on the ball.

But the general approach, the direction of the passes and the starting of attacks remained disappointingly narrow-minded and straight.

Costa Rica scored a magnificent third goal to seal the win through Marcos Urena, and Uruguay are the first giants "killed" in this tournament.