The FIFA World Cup Team Runthrough Thread #3 For 6/10/14: #14 Uruguay
Getty Images South America
M.Pereira - Lugano - Godin - Caceras
Key Bench Options: Stuani, Lodeiro, Fucile, Forlan, Coates, Rios, Perez
Oscar Tabarez was the top tactician of the 2010 World Cup, making the key switch of moving Diego Forlan to the playmakers role and insetting Edison Cavani into the starting lineup that propelled Uruguay to a tremendous fourth place finish in South Africa. Tabarez will win that same praise he has received since then and more if he is able to even lead this Uruguay team to even the Round of 16.
There's not much freshening up from Tabarez from his squad at the last World Cup, as 15 players return from that great team that also went on to win the Copa America the next league. While Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani have emerged into global superstars and Diego Godin has cemented his role as arguably the most underrated centerback in world football, the rest of the squad has been in decline. Captain Diego Lugano is struggling to find himself a club at the moment and may not reach the 100 caps milestone, while Forlan has had to pile his trade in the J-League Cerezo Osaka as his 35-year-old skill set continues to wane.
More concerning in their aging for Tabarez to witness is the energetic defensive trio in midfield that were the unsung heros of that great 2010 run. 34-year-old Diego Perez is seemingly on his last legs at Bologna, while the same can maybe be said of 32-year-old Arevalo Rios at Liga MX side UANL. Alvaro Pereira, meanwhile, has a good bit left in him but struggled to make a consistent impact at Inter Milan. The 28-year-old is hoping that his time so far at Sao Paolo will be the ideal preparation he has for Brazil 2014.
Replacing Perez and Rios in the midfield as Pereira's partner is Walter Gagano, who has waited patiently to be a regular in the starting lineup. Although not as punishing a destroyer as Perez and Rios were, Gargano is a decent passer of the ball and will be key in transition.
The middle of the field, so vital in Tabarez's success four years ago, endure major struggles in qualifying before Uruguay were able to turn it on thanks to Suarez and Cavani. Now a new problem has emerged since the end of May, as Suarez's status for their opener against Costa Rica is a daily examination. The Liverpool superace and the Uruguayan medical staff have assured their nation that he will be healthy for the tournament, but it remains quite the stressful situation for all observing closely.
Even if Suarez is back to his world class self, the question on who would help him and Cavani the best in attack in their massively hard games against UEFA powers Italy and England is still firmly analyzed. Atletico Madrid's fun, skillful winger Cristian Rodriguez was more of a late bench option for Diego Simeone and does not like to play central. Southampton talent Gaston Ramirez has a great left foot, but his limited mobility has always been the major detriment to his game and why he too isn't a central playmaker. And Nicolas Lodeiro, seen as the perfect #10 for the next years after Forlan's retirement, has badly regressed with his inability to progress to higher heights at Ajax. The 25-year-old has tried to get his star potential billing back in the Brasileiro with Corinthians but has not been able to. Tabarez may ponder the thought of doing what he did to Forlan four years ago and move Suarez in a de facto #10 and have Espanyol productive forward Cristian Stuani partner Cavani up top.
Forlan, Lugano, Perez and Rios' aging, coupled with the expectations placed on them for their recent achievements, will make this World Cup installment that much more of a mental challenge for Tabarez. Even with his struggles at West Brom this season, Lugano looks set to partner Godin as young centerbacks Sebastian Coates (23) and Jose Maria Gimenez (19) would be made mince meat by the Balotellis, Sturridges, Sterlings, and Rooneys of the word.
Thankfully Martin Caceras at Juventus and Maxi Pereira at Benfica have gotten time to stay sharp enough and be his fullbacks, and Fernando Muslera is CONMEBOL's best goalkeeper by a good margin. But it will take even better man management and tactical knowhow from the 67-year-old gaffer than the those tremendous traits exhibited in the past.
It is the only thing that will suffice against both an England and Italy side hell bent on making up for a poor World Cup last time on, and even a Costa Rica side knocked out of participating in that World Cup in the playoffs by Tabarez's class side.
Under The Radar, Key Players:
Rodriguez: Unlike most of Atletico Madrid's main players (including his club and country mate Godin), Rodriguez won't be too exhausted from a long club season. The 28-year-old has the ability to make things happen on the flanks and inside when he cuts in with his qualify dribble. He may have to be the true playmaking link so Suarez and Cavani won't have to always drop back in the middle of the field and create for themselves against the defenses keying in on them.