Uruguay’s impressive 3-0 victory over South Africa this evening displayed all that is good about La Celeste as they proceeded to dismantle the home nation with something approaching a swagger. A robust defence, a creative yet disciplined midfield and the star quality of the team’s attacking players were all on show against the Bafana Bafana in what was an authoritative team performance at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
After the Uruguayans were accused of negativity in their stale opening game against France, Oscar Tabarez assessed his tactical options and switched from the 3-5-2 to a far more offensive 3-4-1-2/3-4-3 for tonight’s game in Durban.
The defining feature of the system was the inclusion of the attacking trident of Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan, with the Atletico Madrid talisman deployed just behind the front two, dropping deep in a role he clearly relished, rather than playing as an out-and-out centre-forward.
With the South African centre-halves occupied by Suarez and Cavani and the central midfielders kept busy marking the lively Diego Perez and Alvaro Pereira, Forlan was free to roam in his role as a deep-lying playmaker, collecting the ball from the midfield and either bringing the two more advanced strikers into play or running at the Bafana Bafana defence from about thirty yards from goal.
With that in mind, it was no surprise that the first goal came as a direct result of an unmarked Forlan collecting a pass from Maxi Pereira 40 yards out and advancing unchallenged before producing a majestic finish from distance.
Playing a more conventional back four rather than three centre-halves and two wing-backs also appeared to improve the balance of Tabarez’s side, Maxi Pereira and Jorge Fucile being given greater defensive responsibilities in the face of South Africa’s 4-2-3-1, handling Siphiwe Tshabalala and Teko Modise relatively comfortably whilst also getting forward to give the midfield more natural width in the attacking phase.
In a World Cup that has already had more than its fair share of games dominated by negative tactics it was pleasing to see a team look to attack from the outset, playing with three forwards and looking to actively win the game rather than avoid losing it. Tabarez is not known as a proponent of positive, expansive football, but he is clearly a very astute Coach and tonight got his tactics spot on to outmaneuver Carlos Alberto Parreira and have his team produce one of the tournament’s most aesthetic performances to date in the process. La Celeste might just be establishing themselves as one of the competition’s dark horses.