Suárez, Cavani and Forlán: Uruguay’s unwieldy trio
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez started the tournament playing with a 3-5-2, which as bad as the French were, defensively it was very impressive. Against France, they only mustered seven shots, none of which caused outstanding saves for Hugo Lloris in the French goal.
Against South Korea, they were able to have fourteen shots, eight of which were on target, two of which went in. So, what has changes for Tabarez’s men?
The introduction of Edinson Cavani changed their system to a 4-3-3, with Cavani being used as a link-man between midfield and defence. This personnel change attempted to change the problems they were having in the France game, where Diego Forlán dropping far too deep and wide to receive the ball, leaving Luis Suárez up-front by himself, where the gap between them was too large. This made Uruguay particularly toothless up-front.
Against South Korea, Edinson Cavani was player who received the most passes and covered the most distance with the ball. His role in the team allowed Uruguay to defend staunchly as well as moving the ball quickly from defence to the attacking talents of Forlán and Suárez.
Uruguay have only conceded one goal so far in this tournament, their defensive performances have been exceptional if a little expected. This is because they set up with a very good central defensive partnership in Lugano and Godin with two tireless defensive midfielders sitting in front of the back four.
This protection gives the right-back Maxi Pereira and the left-midfielder Alvaro Pereira license to get forward and support the front-three with the assurances that the five not attacking can deal with a break-away. The defensive side of the team also allow for the front-three to concentrate on doing what they do best, scoring goals, making them dangerous on the break.
Here is the basic attacking shape of Uruguay. Maxi Pereira (red), the right back pushes forward and is covered by Perez. Wide on the left is Alvaro Pereira (yellow) who plays a very isolated role on the left and provides width, looking to use the space provided by Forlán who cuts inside from the left to support Suárez. Cavani looks to play in between the opposition midfield and defence inside the right channel.
The first goal is from a direct clearance from the goalkeeper. Uruguay constantly keep Suárez and Forlán up-front, relying on a strong midfield to close down deeper midfielders. Cavani however is given both jobs and drops deep to defend as well as his role as a link-man between midfield and
The goal is made from Forlán’s intense running and strength on the ball, with three South Korean players all around him, he manages to lay a ball off for Cavani. This would not have happened in the French game because Suárez would have been his only option, making it easy to defend against. Cavani floats a ball aimlessly into the left hand berth and Forlán is able to cross in between the South Korean defence and the goalkeeper. The cross should be easy to defend against given there is nobody running across the defence towards the near post but given that the South Korean defence was poorly organised and did not communicate, the cross flew past all the defence and onto Suárez to slot home.
For the build-up for their second goal against South Africa, it’s from Cavani linking up with Suárez that provides the goal-scoring opportunity that provides the penalty.
So what makes them effective?
By having the further forward Suárez always playing on the shoulder of the last defender it gives Forlán and Cavani the opportunity to drop deeper and pick-up the ball and run with it. The two deeper players are also fluid in their movement, looking to swap and change, causing defences to never feel settled with who is picking who up.
By not playing in conventional positions, the confusion appears due to centre-backs and full-backs not knowing who to mark. This means they can act in accordance to how many defenders are picking up Suárez. For example, if Cavani, in his usual position is on the ball. Forlán is usually dropping deep, in this position, the right-back and the central defender does not know who to pick up. Depending on how well organised the opposition defence are, if both central defenders look to pick up Suárez, given he is in a conventional centre forward position, Forlán needs to be picked up deep-lying midfielder or a full-back.
Following this example, if Suárez (central) runs inwards to out, taking the centre-backs with him, Forlán is able to run into the space provided without a direct marker. The extent to which this works depends on the organisation of the opposition defence. If the defence are reliant on central midfielders, if Suárez takes both central defenders with him, he leaves lots of space for Forlán to run into.
However, if the opposition defence aim to keep compact and restrict the space of the front-three, the cutting in of Forlán leads to lots of space for Alvaro or Maxi Pereira to run into. For Uruguay, this offers lots of possibilities given the way Forlán and Cavani can exploit the movement of Suárez on the opposition defence.
Uruguay’s movement to a front-three has allowed them many more options and situations in attack. With Forlán and Suárez looking dangerous this tournament, they will always be able to create opportunities for themselves. The movement to a front-three has made Uruguay look a lot more dangerous and the trio of Suárez, Forlán and Cavani will always be foundation of Uruguay’s goals. With such a talented trio, Tabarez has created a system that is strong defensively whilst powerful, quick and efficient in attack.