Connect with us

World Cup 2014

World Cup 2014 Tactics: Analysing Uruguay’s Tactical approach for the 2014 World Cup

After struggling throughout qualifying, Uruguay only scraped into the World Cup via a play-off against Jordan but on their day the 2010 semi-finalists will be a match for almost anyone.  Retaining the core of players than impressed in South Africa and went on to win the 2011 Copa America, can Tabarez’s charges spoil the party in Brazil once again?


Uruguay tend to opt for a 4-4-2 with two central midfielders sitting deep to protect the back four and which can quickly morph into a 4-2-2-2 when springing forward on the counter attack.  Nicknamed El Maestro, legendary coach Oscar Washington Tabarez has variations of personnel that can subtly alter the balance of his preferred set up.  Depending on the opposition, he can either go with two destroyers in the centre, such as Diego Perez and Egidio Arevalo Rios, or instead use Nicolas Lodeiro when looking for a more expansive game.  Cristian Rodriguez and Christian Stuani often take on the role of the wide men to support Suarez and Cavani.

That is not to say that Tabarez rigidly sticks to this formation.  In qualification he also deployed both a 4-3-1-2 and a diamond with either one of Lodeiro, Rodriguez, Forlan or Ramirez in the hole behind the strikers and has also experimented with a 4-3-3, again keeping the centre of the park solid and organised, handing the creative responsibility to the intelligent posse of forwards at his disposal.

Uruguay WC formation



A main strength which characterises Uruguay’s style is their resilience and fighting spirit.  Midfield warriors Diego Perez, Egidio Arevalo Rios and Walter Gargano typify this garra charrúa and will fight tooth and nail to protect the defence and make Uruguay extremely difficult to break down.  Indeed, all over the pitch the players will be expected to work hard and make life uncomfortable for the opposition. Although, they may not be as underestimated as they were in 2010, they will still relish being the underdogs and call upon the spirit of the 1950 Maracanzo. 

This use of midfield enforcers to sit deep and break up play is, in part, also a reaction to one of Uruguay’s main weaknesses, that is to say their creaking, lumbering defence.  Though Diego Godin has been in fine form helping Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title, centre back partner Diego Lugano is long past his prime and his lack of pace could be exploited by nippy opposition.  This need to drop deep and not allow space in behind engenders a counter-attacking style, a style that is a direct product of both their greatest strengths and their greatest deficiency.

What also allows this style to pay off is the world class strikers they possess.  Suarez and Cavani are two of the most feared strikers around and are coming off the back of impressive seasons for their clubs.  Furthermore, they have the creativity and experience of Forlan, the industry and aerial ability of Stuani and the pace of Abel Hernandez to call upon.  In their current form, Suarez and Cavani are capable of conjuring match-winning moments out of nothing and will always pose a massive threat.

MORE READING | Interview with Telegraph correspondent, Juan Arango, on Uruguay and their potential over-dependence on the tried & tested players.

Another factor to consider is how the group draw could work as an advantage for them.  Uruguay will be favourites to win their opening game against Costa Rica and, with 3 points in the bag, this should therefore allow them in theory to sit back in their games against England and Italy (who may be under more pressure to look for the win depending on how their previous games have panned out) and play their favoured counter-attacking style.  Throw in the geographical advantage of playing in the familiar surroundings of South America and you can quickly see why the Tabarez’s men back themselves to progress from the group.

While having a settled squad that knows each other inside out will certainly be a positive influence, their pre-tournament form in qualification has led to the belief that perhaps this could be the end of the cycle for an ageing group of players.  It could be a sensational send off for a highly successful group or it could be one battle too many.  Only time will tell which Uruguay we see.

Finally, despite having the likes of Suarez, Cavani and Godin in the form of their lives, there are a number of players in the squad struggling for playing time.  Jorge Fucile has not featured for Porto at all this season, while Sebastian Coates has regressed since his move to Liverpool and has struggled with injury since his loan move back to Nacional.  What’s more, Gaston Ramirez has also not been able to hold down a first team spot at Southampton and captain Lugano didn’t cover himself in glory in the 9 appearances he made for West Brom.  Tabarez obviously knows his players well and will be expecting them to set up to recreate past international form.


Luis Suarez | As mentioned above, Uruguay’s key players will come in the guise of strike duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.  PFA Player of the Year and Premier League top scorer Suarez has been in phenomenal form this season, almost single-handedly dragging Liverpool to the title, and will look to continue that in Brazil.  His intelligence, technique and never-say-die attitude means he can operate anywhere across the front line, equally adept at dropping deep or playing off the last defender’s shoulder.  In short, a defender’s nightmare.  However, Suarez now faces a race against time to get fully fit following a knee operation on his meniscus and Uruguayan fans will be praying for a swift recovery for their star striker.

Edinson Cavani | It could be an important tournament for Cavani too. Playing second fiddle to Ibrahimovic at PSG and often played out wide four years ago due to his incredible work rate and willingness to sacrifice himself for the team, it will be his time to spearhead the attack as a focal point alongside Suarez.  It might be the perfect opportunity to showcase on the world stage what the man, described by Tabarez as the “perfect son-in-law”, can do, especially if Suarez struggles to fully shake off his injury.

Diego Godin & Fernando Muslera | At the other end of the pitch, Diego Godin and Fernando Muslera will be absolutely vital in holding together the defence and providing a solid platform for the more creative members of the squad.  Godin in particular has had a stellar season with Atletico Madrid and, though not the quickest or most physically imposing, has fantastic position sense and bags of intelligence while also being an aerial threat from set pieces, as displayed by his goals against Barcelona and Real Madrid this season.


The youngest member of the squad, centre back Jose Maria Gimenez, may not feature but could find himself thrust into the limelight.  A rock in the heart of defence for the U20 side that reached the final of the U20 World Cup last summer and on the books of Atletico Madrid, he will most likely be in Brazil primarily to gain experience (should he make the final cut) but, nevertheless, he is certainly one for the future.

Read all our World Cup Tactical Previews here, and all other WC2014 related content here.

Tom Robinson

Tom Robinson

An Argentinian & South American enthusiast and long-suffering Aston Villa fan, Tom began writing about the continent's always dramatic football after returning from a six-month stint working in Buenos Aires.He has since been featured on numerous sites, such as Sky Sports, IBWM and A Football Report.

You can find more at @tomrobbo89
Tom Robinson

100 to Watch


Talent Radar11 months ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #6: Luka Jovic, Anthony Martial and Reiss Nelson feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Talent Radar12 months ago

Talent Radar: A-League’s 10 Young Players to Watch in 2018-19

Brian Bertie writes about the 10 young players to watch in this season’s A-League. Australia have made rapid strides forward...

Interviews12 months ago

Interview: Abneet Bharti on Indian footballers abroad

SU Sintrense defender, Abneet Bharti, the only Indian footballer to be plying his trade in Europe, talks to Kaustubh Pandey...

Talent Radar12 months ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #5: Matthias De Ligt & James Maddison feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Opinions12 months ago

Borja Fernandez: The underappreciated genius of ISL’s infancy

On the eve of the latest edition of the ISL, Arinjay Ghosh pays a tribute to Borja Fernandez, an ISL...

Opinions12 months ago

Tactical Philosophy: Domenico Tedesco

While this website has made its name focusing on the lesser known youth of this beautiful sport, and combined it...

Tactical Analysis12 months ago

Liverpool 3-2 PSG: Liverpool edge deserved victory against dysfunctional PSG

Siyang Xu writes a detailed tactical analysis about the UEFA Champions League match that ended Liverpool 3-2 PSG. Liverpool faced...

Talent Radar1 year ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #4: Matthias De Ligt & Ousmane Dembele feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Opinions1 year ago

UEFA Champions League: The 5 hipster sides to follow this season

Gear up with your organic ginger ale and mystical moustache oil, as Richard Pike briefs us about 5 off beat...

Talent Radar1 year ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #3: Maxi Gomez & Marco Asensio feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Opinions1 year ago

Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea: Tactical Approach & Key Players

Miles Olusina writes about Maurizio Sarri and the approach he is likely to take at Chelsea. Despite a successful 2016/17...

Talent Radar1 year ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #2: Joe Gomez & Bertrand Traore feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Talent Radar1 year ago

2018-19 U-22 Young Players’ Team of the Week #1: Joe Gomez & Kylian Mbappe feature

A regular feature on our website is the Talent Radar Team of the Week with the best young players compiled...

Opinions1 year ago

Julen Lopetegui at Real Madrid: Tactical Approach & Key Players

Aamer Aslam writes about what we can expect from European Champions Real Madrid after the arrival of Julen Lopetegui On...

Opinions1 year ago

Carlo Ancelotti at Napoli: Tactical Approach & Key Players

Charles Onwuakpa writes about Carlo Ancelotti and the approach he is likely to take on at Napoli. After three intense...

Scout Report1 year ago

Scout Report: Gonçalo Paciência | Eintracht’s exquisite forward

Jose Miguel Saraiva writes a detailed scout report about Eintracht Frankfurt’s striker, Gonçalo Paciência. For those who have been attentively observing...

Talent Radar1 year ago

Talent Radar: Liga MX’s 10 Young Players to Watch in 2018-19

Thomas Harrison writes about the 10 players to watch out for in the Liga MX for this coming season. Mexico...

Talent Radar1 year ago

20 Key Young Players to Watch from 20 La Liga Teams

Tom Canton takes a look at they key young players to watch from each of the 20 La Liga teams....

Scout Report1 year ago

Scout Report: Alphonso Davies | Speedy Canadian winger

Griffin O’Neill writes a detailed scout report about Alphonso Davies, the Vancouver Whitecaps winger. While many still believe that the...

Scout Report1 year ago

Scout Report: Diogo Gonçalves | Benfica’s tricky winger

Jose Miguel Saraiva writes a detailed scout report about Benfica’s tricky winger, Diogo Goncalves Having been deprived of their biggest...

Talent Radar Award History

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email.

More on Outside of the Boot

Previous Next
Test Caption
Test Description goes like this