Colombia vs. Uruguay: Switch to 4-2-2-2 Unlocks Cuadrado and James Rodriguez

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJune 28, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 28:  James Rodriguez of Colombia celebrates scoring his team's second goal and his second of the game during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at Maracana on June 28, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Colombia waltzed into the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup courtesy of a 2-0 win over Uruguay.

James Rodriguez scored twice, one in each half, to cap a wonderful evening for Los Cafeteros and set up a meeting with hosts Brazil on Friday.


Formations and XIs


Colombia started with what looked like a 4-2-3-1 formation with Teofilo Gutierrez in behind Jackson Martinez, but it eventually panned out to be more a 4-2-2-2 look.

Uruguay stuck with the 3-5-2 that got them past Italy but brought Maxi Pereira back in at right wing-back and moved Alvaro Gonzalez inside to replace Nicolas Lodeiro.


Uruguay's Low Block

Uruguay came into the game with a very set mentality, sitting deep, playing carefully and refusing to rush their own game. They did the same against the Azzurri and defended for long periods, confident in their striker's ability to go and find a goal.

Diego Godin led a very, very low block that saw them camped on the 18-yard line for most of the first half. They refused to step up, and that meant the midfield three were trapped deeper too, unable to press and harry Colombia on the ball.

Jackson Martinez and Gutierrez had no joy in the air and found very little room to maneuver. Dropping in and receiving the ball was nearly impossible.


Juan Cuadrado Moves Inside

Frustrated, Colombia moved their peripherals around to try to work some openings.

Juan Cuadrado came inside and played close to a No. 10 role, James ventured out to a right attacking midfield position and the full-backs pushed all the way up to the forward line and played on the shoulder.


Cuadrado came inside to utilise his dribbling threat one-on-one in the central zones, forcing mistakes and challenges that opened up space to move into. Pablo Armero and Juan Zuniga, very advanced, pushed right against the wing-backs and kept them in line with Godin.

It was here that the space began to open up: in the pockets in front of the wing-backs, alongside the centre-backs and behind the midfield.

Not a lot opens up behind the studious Arevalo Egidio Rios, but the moment it did, James Rodriguez struck.


Tempting Them Out

Colombia spent the next 25 minutes trying to tempt Uruguay out of their low block, as despite being a goal down, they refused to be drawn to the ball and did not chase the game.

A lot of pointless possession took place, passing the ball around the back line and using Abel Aguilar as their "riskiest" outlet when moving forward. La Celeste refused to bite, maintained a very patient attitude and gave away minimal fouls.

Aguilar, Sanchez and Yepes were careful with their passing, trying to tempt Uruguay out.
Aguilar, Sanchez and Yepes were careful with their passing, trying to tempt Uruguay

When they did attack, the space between the lines were vastly different. A short ball out from defence to midfield then required a 30-yard pass to find Edinson Cavani, and Oscar Tabarez's men built no sustained pressure of any kind.



Uruguay remained patient into the second half up to a point, but when James fired in his and Colombia's second, Tabarez was forced into a change.

He brought on Christian Stuani and Gaston Ramirez, switched to a 4-4-2 diamond (4-3-1-2) and tried to engineer a degree of control in the centre.

It worked to an extent, with La Celeste levelling the possession battle and working some strong periods of pressure, but very few clear-cut chances were created.

Cavani received little service, Ramirez gave the ball away a fair amount and Colombia were able to soak up the pressure using their big, burly defensive midfielder, Carlos Sanchez, and aggressive defensive line.