Key Battles That Will Shape Italy's World Cup Clash with Uruguay
Italy and Uruguay meet in Natal on Tuesday with a place in the last 16 of the 2014 World Cup at stake. It promises to be an intriguing encounter between two teams who have shown a large degree of tactical flexibility in the past.
Italy’s superior goal difference means that a draw will be enough for them to progress, while Uruguay have to take all three points if they are to avoid elimination.
The two teams met in the third/fourth-place playoff of last year’s Confederations Cup. They played out an entertaining 2-2 draw, with Italy winning on penalties. It was not, however, a match that will prove particularly instructive as to the likely flow of Tuesday’s encounter.
Italy’s personnel has changed significantly in the interim, while Uruguay are highly unlikely to employ the 4-3-3 formation they used last summer.
Here are the key battles that will shape Italy’s World Cup clash with Uruguay.
Andrea Pirlo vs. Edinson Cavani
The large majority of Italy’s attacking moves are filtered through Andrea Pirlo. As per FIFA.com, he received the ball more times (107) than any other Italian player in the victory over England and was second to Daniele De Rossi in the same measure in the defeat to Costa Rica.
Opposition coaches regularly spend hours devising plans to limit Pirlo’s influence, but Oscar Tabarez has a ready-tested solution. The Uruguay coach lauded the efforts of Edinson Cavani in neutralising Steven Gerrard in his side’s victory over England and is again likely to put the striker to work against Pirlo on Tuesday.
Cavani regularly dropped off the front and occupied a position in front of Gerrard. He made it difficult for the Liverpool midfielder to receive the ball and blocked off his immediate forward options whenever he did. Nicolas Lodeiro provided able backup when Cavani was otherwise engaged.
Costa Rica showed in the second half of their win over Italy that if you stop Pirlo from playing, then you also, to a large degree, stop Italy from doing so. Cavani will obviously be expected to play a big role in attack, but his defensive work could prove equally important to Uruguay’s hopes.
Luis Suarez vs. Giorgio Chiellini
Luis Suarez was Uruguay’s match-winner against England, scoring both goals on his return to the side following knee surgery. He was a yard sharper than the English defence throughout and will hope to prove as troublesome to the Italian back line on Tuesday.
As per Football-Italia, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has tested a back three, consisting of the Juventus trio of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, in the build-up to the match.
Regardless of whether Italy line up with three or four defenders, Chiellini is the player likely to be in closest attendance to Suarez. He is usually a fine defender but struggled against the fleet-footed Joel Campbell in the defeat to Costa Rica. He was very lucky not to concede a penalty for a clumsy foul on the forward during the first half.
Suarez will hope to get similar joy up against Chiellini on Tuesday.
Uruguay were blunt in attack during Suarez’s absence in their own defeat to Costa Rica. If Chiellini can manage to subdue their main man, Uruguay may find it hard to get the goal(s) they need to progress at Italy’s expense.
Uruguay’s Left vs. Italy’s Right
Uruguay aimed the majority of their attacks down their left-hand side during the defeat to Costa Rica, as per differentgame, and again, albeit to a slightly lesser extent, against England.
As per Tenfield (in Spanish), it seems that Alvaro Pereira and Cristian Rodriguez, the left-sided pair from the latter match, will again line up against Italy on Tuesday.
Italy got a lot of joy down their right-hand side against England, with Matteo Darmian and Antonio Candreva combining to good effect. Candreva provided the assist for the winning goal, scored by Mario Balotelli.
It does, however, seem that Cesare Prandelli is likely to use a 3-5-2 formation on Tuesday, with Darmian at right wing-back, as per Football-Italia.
In that case, it will be important for one of the two strikers, or the right sided of the three central midfielders, to come across and offer support to Darmian. If not, Uruguay could create some useful overloads down this side of the pitch.
In addition, the advantages of a wing-back formation are largely negated if the opposition winger is able to push the wing-back back into his own half. The battle between Darmian and Rodriguez could therefore prove crucial to the outcome of Tuesday’s match.