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Tactical Analysis

World Cup Tactical Analysis: Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica

After a successful 2010 World Cup, expectations were high for Uruguay. But those that haven’t followed Oscar Tabarez’ men should know that the South Americans struggled in qualifying while retaining an almost identical squad from four years back.

Their opponents, Costa Rica, were being over-looked by most in the highest ranked World Cup group. But while viewers can be forgiven for this, Uruguay were guilty of almost ‘expecting’ a victory rather than earning it.

Formation and Line ups

Uruguay Costa Rica Tactics

Uruguay (4-4-2): Muslera 6; M Pereira 3, Lugano 4, Godin 5, Caceres 6; Stuani 5, Arevalo Rios 6, Gargano (Gonzalez 74) 6, Rodriguez 6 (Hernandez); Forlan 5 (Lodeiro), Cavani 6

Costa Rica (5-4-1): Navas 8; Gamboa 7, Duarte 7, Gonzalez 7, Umana 6, Diaz 6; Ruiz (Urena 80) 6, Tejeda 5 (Cubero ), Borges 7, Bolanos 6 (Barrentes 86); Campbell 8

Goals: Cavani (24’) |  J.Campbell (54’), O. Duarte (58’), M. Urena (84’)


Uruguayan attack toothless without Suarez

The Uruguayan attack failed to flatter throughout the game and you could easily sense that they missed their in form talisman Suarez. Not many would have expected a combination of Forlan and Cavani to fail against a relatively unknown Costa Rican defence but that’s exactly what happened.


In the first half Diego Forlan took a freekick which fell to Edinson Cavani because of some horrible defending by Yeltsin Tejeda but Cavani shot it horribly wide and that was perhaps the first glimpse of what to expect from the Uruguayan attack in general. Cavani might have steered home his penalty in the 24th minute but disappointed throughout the game. Uruguay despite being deemed as strong contenders to top this group lacked a sense of belief and determination which should be worrying for coach Oscar Tabarez. Uruguay will be hoping for Suarez to get fit and to help steer their ship. The unexpected hero in attack was not a Uruguayan but a Costa Rican in the form of Joel Campbell.

Costa Ricans too fast on the counter

Both the Costa Rican full backs post half time had evidently moved forward and tried to supply the ball more to Joel Campbell. Getting Campbell more into the game gave the Costa Ricans a sense of belief to which they responded and finally around the 54th minute. Gamboa’s beautiful cross found an unmarked Campbell who then slotted home and equalized for the Costa Ricans. Uruguay’s hapless defence then conceded another freekick which found Duarte at the far post who very bravely jumped in and beat Muslera to give the Costa Ricans an unprecedented and unexpected lead. The Central Americans then in the crowd burst into happiness, remember they were up against the defending Copa American champs and the previous World Cup semi finalists!

Costa Rican still defensively weak, while Uruguay need to improve there as well

The Costa Ricans might have easily won against Uruguay and probably pulled off the upset of the tournament in doing so but do not overlook their weaknesses for even a second. The Costa Ricans at times were horrible in defending and that was demonstrated in them giving away a penalty. The Uruguayans missed out on marking Campbell to keep him quiet but you cannot expect that sort of negligence from Prandelli or a rejuvenated Hodgson. Campbell was at times given a free run by Uruguay and they literally allowed him to dictate the game in the second half as evident from his wonderful through ball for Urena’s goal in the 84th minute but would a solid Italian or English defence allow that?

Uruguay have always known to have been an attacking force and thus expecting them to goof up in defence wasn’t really a surprise. Yeltsin Tejeda is a major weaklink in the Costa Rican backline and he can be easily exploited, the keeper Navas also looked shaky at times though pulling off some good saves often recovering from initial poor decision making. It just gives you the thought that Uruguay couldn’t exploit the Costa Ricans and were thus held to ransom. The Costa Ricans were supposed to be the whipping boys of this group but their victory has justified it being called the group of death. Now it is important to see how the Costa Ricans cope with the English or the Italians and whether their heavily defensive outlook does them any good or not.

Key Player of the Match

The best player of the night was undoubtedly Joel Campbell. His pace and ferocity completely exploited the Uruguayan defence. Campbell seems to be a man of big nights looking back at his inspirational performance when Manchester United faced off against Olympiakos in Greece. If Joel Campbell continues to impress it would be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger would respond for the continuous calls for this youngster to be given a chance in the Arsenal first team. An important aspect of Campbell’s performance was the level of dependence upon him by the Costa Ricans as he played alone up front and with his pace and the Costa Rican full backs pushing forward they seriously managed to trouble the Uruguayans. Joel Campbell is certainly a man to watch out for this World Cup.

Where does this leave them

The Costa Ricans after the first round of play are surprisingly at the top of the group with the Uruguayans placed last. The Costa Ricans next play a dominant Italian team which managed to brush aside their English challenge last night, with all the belief and confidence from this game they promise to be no pushovers. The Uruguayans next play England with both the teams desperately needing a win after their first round losses. The Costa Ricans wouldn’t be looking to change much other than probably solidifying their defence whereas the Uruguayans would be praying for a return of their talisman Luis Suarez who so well could prove to be a trump card against the English.

Read all our World Cup content here.

Harsh Khara

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