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Tactical Analysis

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Uruguay 2-1 England

In a World Cup where England lacked expectations heading to the tournament, they somehow still managed to disappoint. After a lot of positivity in defeat against Italy, England were expected to carry on and impress vs Uruguay but put in a lackluster performance.

Uruguay on the other hand also came into the game in disappointment after defeat and were expected to do the same, but encouraged by the returning Luis Suarez. The striker struck twice to keep Uruguay’s hopes alive, all but ending that of their opponents.

Formation & Line-Ups

Uruguay (4-3-1-2): Muslera, Gimenez, Godin, Pereira, Caceres, Rios, Gonzalez (Fucile 78′), Rodriguez, Lodeiro (Stuani 67′), Cavani, Suarez (Coates 88′)

England (4-2-3-1): Hart, Cahill, Jagielka, Johnson, Baines, Gerrard, Henderson (Lambert 87′), Sterling (Barkley 64′), Welbeck (Lallana 71′), Rooney, Sturridge

Goals: Suarez (39′, 85′); Rooney (75′)

Uruguay England Tactics


Luis Suarez’ tactical positioning

Uruguay’s key man, Luis Suarez, came into the game on the back of a knee surgery that kept him out of the Costa Rica game and probably would have from this one too if the result wasn’t as important. But the Liverpool striker was forced to start, to the disappointment of England supporters but the question remained, can he influence?

Yes and no. While Suarez did score the crucial two goals, his influence on the game was rather lacking. His tactical positioning and role in the side differed from what we’ve come to see; it clearly showed how unfit he was. The 27-yr-old is usually seen in a role that maximizes his contribution to the team and takes full advantage of his creativity with him preferring to drop deep and receiving the ball.

Uruguay happy to sit deep (via Squawka)

Uruguay happy to sit deep (via Squawka)

But against England it was clear he just wasn’t as physically fit and lacked the energy to play a role that demanded the player to play deep with constant movement. Suarez instead was positioned up-top as the main front man in the form of a centre forward, a role whose lack of possession doesn’t favour the Uruguayan. The side also set-up with the intention to sit-back and encourage England forward, resulting in the striker being further isolated from the rest of the squad. As a result, for large parts of the game, Suarez was invisible, he wasn’t tracking back (as often), he didn’t see as much of the ball and this also forced the usual man up top, Edinson Cavani, to play the role Suarez would have.

But despite this, Suarez laid claim to why he is a world class individual, all he needs is a sight of goal. The first was all down to Cavani’s brilliant inch-perfect pass, but the second was all Suarez. Helped by an unintentional Gerrard header, Suarez had it all to do from the narrowest of angles, but didn’t he take it well!

Uruguay increase their intensity, expose England’s weakness without the ball

The second half started a lot different to what the first looked like. Though England didn’t offer much in the first, they certainly saw more of the ball and looked a decent side when in possession. But Uruguay exposed England’s age old weakness, their lack of quality when not in possession.



Oscar Tabarez set his team out to play with higher intensity, focusing more on attack rather than inviting England forward and this clearly was taking the game away from England. Off the ball, they seemed out of place, out of position, with the attacking foursome of Rooney, Sturridge, Sterling & Welbeck particularly not offering as much. Their positional sense in a defensive capacity was poor, allowing Uruguay to play the ball with ease into their attacking zones.

Another factor that one can notice with England over the years is their lack of intensity/pressing when not on the ball. While Uruguay upped the tempo, England were finding it difficult to contain, but the South Americans then kept it under control with the ball played around in deeper zones with short lateral passes. Again, there was a clear lack of intensity from England to regain possession. This just makes you wonder what England would have done had they come up against a side like Germany, or to a lesser degree, Colombia & Chile. Uruguay are a side than generally don’t raise the tempo, but can be lethal when they do, and this exposed England’s frailties.

Uruguay’s midfield crucial in breaking England’s play

Oscar Tabarez set out his side with a clear defensive mind-set with well positioned midfielders breaking England’s play up and preventing the attackers from having a contribution on the game. Each player was specifically tasked in his zone, a simple defensive plan that worked perfectly.

Cristian Rodriguez & Alvaro Gonzalez prevented the wide men (Welbeck & Sterling) of England contributing to attack, Nicolas Lodeiro marshaled the defence positioned just ahead of them in an attempt to prevent Gerrard influencing play, and indeed to a lesser degree, Jordan Henderson. While Rios’ only job was to prevent Wayne Rooney from influencing the game as he stuck to his task (and man) throughout the game.

These four midfielders had 18 successful tackles between them, to put that into perspective, the entire England side had 15. Six interceptions from the deeper players showed how they prevented creative play and penetrative passes in the attacking third. A successful performance from Tabarez’ midfield that proved to be crucial, the coach clearly studied the influence these players had against Italy.

Rooney fails to impress in favourable role too

Now all the talk coming in to this game in the England camp was Wayne Rooney’s positioning. The United man played the previous game out wide in a pretty awful performance despite setting up England’s goal. Experts believed that Raheem Sterling (who played the central role vs Italy) should be moved to a wider position, which will allow Hodgson to accommodate Rooney in that No.10 role. He got his wish.

But despite finally ending his World Cup duck and achieving a personal goal, Rooney again, was pretty awful. He didn’t get into the game enough, he failed to provide a creative threat and his influence on the side was remarkably low. A chance from right underneath the post was missed, though you could argue it was difficult to take. His passing too was lacking with him playing more of a role that involves rotating possession rather than creating chances as a No.10 would.

Rooney's passing vs Uruguay (via Squawka)

Rooney’s passing vs Uruguay (via Squawka)

But what was strikingly poor of Rooney was his performance with the ball, especially in a deeper zone. The striker who is considered to be more strong with a real physical presence, was so easily shrugged off the ball, giving away valuable possession.

Though Sterling too had a poor game this time, he certainly put in a better shift in that role against Italy than what Rooney did against Uruguay. The goal was a welcome, but that was pretty much it from Wayne Rooney. To be fair to him, not many England players found success in a central advanced area with Uruguay setting up well, but for someone who is considered England’s best player, we certainly could expect more.


Though that Uruguayan midfield was the key difference maker in a defensive sense, can’t look any further from Luis Suarez as the key difference maker in an attacking sense with his two goals carrying the team to victory. The striker was clearly unfit, but raring to go, bursting with emotion. He made the difference in the final scoreline, though one must wonder at what long-term cost. One can only hope his efforts haven’t aggravated his injury.


With the win, Uruguay have now increased their chances of progress, with their fate in their own hands against Italy in the last game. Tabarez’ men disappointed against Costa Rica but were certainly impressing against England, a game which put emphasis on their defence rather than their attack.

For England, it’s a case of depending on other results and hoping that they manage to get their own one right. It isn’t an impossible task, but a young & exuberant side that came into the tournament with not much to play for, are still going home as possibly one of the worst English World Cup performers.

Read all our World Cup 2014 content here
Sami Faizullah

Sami Faizullah

Co-founder and Chief Editor here. Obsessed with tactics. Keen follower of young players. Creator of #TalentRadar. Appeared in A Football Report's list of "Best in Football Writing 2012".
Sami Faizullah

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