After cruising through a group containing Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt with maximum points before seeing Portugal off 2-1 in the round of 16, Uruguay certainly arrive for Friday’s quarter-final clash with France with plenty of momentum behind them.
Continuing to punch well above their weight, La Celeste will be looking to spring yet another upset to set up a semi-final clash with either Brazil or Belgium. Nonetheless, priced as rank outsiders with the bookmakers, Oscar Tabarez’s troops will have to be at their very best to see off their French opponents.
In the following article, we take a look at the key factors as to whether or it’ll be another night of Uruguayan glory or a flight home to Montevideo.
Avoiding Argentina’s mistakes against France:
Argentina lost to France 4-3 in the round of 16 and the defeat stemmed from tactical suicide that played directly into the hands of France. The Argentines played an aggressive, high backline and looked to dominate possession, which allowed France to sit deep and counter with their devastating pace.
Clearly, not allowing the likes of Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe space to break into is going to prove crucial to Uruguayan hopes, and we can’t see Tabarez being as naive as Jorge Sampaoli in sending his time out in such a reckless, gung-ho manner.
Uruguay are experts in closing games out and winning them in pragmatic manner, so setting up with the intention of denying France space shouldn’t cause the South Americans too many issues. Indeed, in their game with Portugal, Uruguay saw just 32.7% of the ball, but largely restricted Portugal to hopeful efforts from distance, rather than leaving gaps for them to attack in and a repeat performance against France will certainly be the target.
Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin:
Coming into the tournament Atletico Madrid central duo Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin were tipped amongst the strongest centre back pairings in Russia and they’ve certainly live up to the bill in what we’ve seen so far.
Gimenez and Godin are the main reason why Uruguay have conceded just 1 goal in 7 outings in 2018 and help make La Celeste one of the hardest teams to break down at international level.
Gimenez and Godin have been playing together for a long time and have an excellent understanding of each other. Given Uruguay’s defensive style of play is conducive to opposition pressure, the two are essential in helping the side defend the box under pressure and keep the defensive unit solid and organised throughout matches, something that they’ll have to do once again against France.
Using the ball efficiently:
Like against Portugal, Uruguay are expected to have a minority of the possession so will have to use the ball smartly and efficiently. The side have already shown how quick they can be in transition, but they are also apt at taking the sting out of the game in stages, with Lucas Torreira a calming influence on the ball with his excellent technical quality.
Ultimately, Uruguay will have to make the correct choices as regards when is the correct moment to try and spring a quick counter and when is the time to keep a hold of the ball. They can’t afford to repeatedly concede possession and have France attacking them over and over again but the must also take advantage of any disorganisation in the French backline by orchestrating the types of quick, direct counters that worked so well against Ronaldo and co.
Forward Edinson Cavani has been the star of the Uruguayan show so far, plunging home three goals, two of which coming in a fantastic showing last time out. Nonetheless, Cavani hobbled off injured towards the end of the round of 16 clash and looks set to miss the game with France, leaving a big void to fill.
It remains to be seen how Tabarez will go about replacing his talisman, but there’s still plenty of firepower in Uruguay’s arsenal. Like for like, traditional forward options are available, with Maxi Gomez and Cristhian Stuani raring to go, having plunged home a combined total of 38 La Liga goals between themselves last season.
However, Tabarez may well opt for the technical quality of Giorgian de Arrascaeta to partner Luis Suarez instead. Nonetheless, that would certainly be a big risk, as despite a growing reputation and undoubted ability, de Arrascaeta is clearly not the same type of player as Cavani as and his inclusion would see Uruguay lose their direct ‘out-ball’, which could prove essential in providing respite from French pressure.
Make no mistake, Uruguay are not in the quarter-finals by chance and they’ll have every chance of defeating a French outfit that has not really convinced so far; so long as they come up with a smart game-plan and execute it well.
France have not looked comfortable when they’ve been forced into being the protagonist in matches and much prefer their opponents to come onto them in kamikaze fashion so that they have room to use their speed in. Uruguay have to make restricting space their number one priority and taking into account their history of doing exactly that, it’s not impossible to see the Uruguayans giving France a run for their money as a bare minimum.
The real question regarding Uruguay’s hopes centres around how much of an attacking threat they can provide. Few can question their defensive credentials, with the statistics plainly there for all to see. On the other hands, with Cavani set to miss out and with the sde set to see little of the ball, quite how much of a threat Tabarez’s troops can pose remains to be seen and they have to at least try and get forward with some purpose to avoid France applying constant pressure.
Whatever happens and whatever the result will be, you can guarantee Uruguay will leave nothing on the pitch and will come away with few regrets. They are a close knit group that work extremely hard for one another and have overachieved year after year for a country of their size. In reaching this stage you could argue they’ve done so once again, but this Uruguayan tale may not have reached its conclusion just yet so France best beware.
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