Luis Suarez has been on his best behavior in Russia, scoring twice as Uruguay swept through the group stage with three straight victories – sending the two-time champions to the knockout round. Edson Cavani also scored, showing the full strength of Charrua’s team in the World Cup.
Besides the offensive power, goalkeeper Fernando Muslera has not allowed a goal in any of the team’s six matches this year. At the post match press conference, Suarez said:
”After winning the first two matches 1-0, our goal was to get another. We wanted to play the same we had before, only better.”
And they did. Not only better, but different. Against Russia, Tabarez started with two young and fast players in the middle: Vecino and Nández playing as internal midfielders in a 4-3-1-2, with Bentancur as number one behind Suarez and Cavani.
This formation allowed Uruguay to have a “football flux” from the beginning of the play till the final shot. Different from the traditional 4-4-2 they used to play, with slow players at the sides (Cebolla and Sanchez), with this formation and players Uruguay played with more triangles and possession build-up.
Here’s the work of Rodrigo Bentancur: 868 points in 62 minutes. He did a great job with ball distribution in Russia’s half, allowing Uruguay to work its possession near Akinfeev’s goal.
SUAREZ & CAVANI: THEY CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
“It’s important for strikers to score,” Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said. ”When they feel comfortable or at home, they score goals. Strikers contribute a lot to a team. We know as we improve our game we will offer opportunities to all of our players to improve their game.”
Let’s take a look at the movement of both Cavani and Suárez against Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the different spaces they used against Russia.
Playing in a 4-4-2, Cavani needs to get back in the middle to take the ball and build-up. He is more a midfielder than a striker. Playing against Russia in a 4-3-1-2, he was able to stay longer in the six yard box, where he is more dangerous.
Against Egypt Cavani had four shots, and all from outside the box. He added 320 points with those shots, with an average of 80 points per shot. Against Saudi Arabia, it was 3 shots and 387 points, at an average of 129 points each.
Against Russia it was four shots again, but 1262 points. Cavani had his first shot inside the six yard box (for his goal) in the competition, and an average value of 315 points per shot (albeit any goal is automatically granted 1,000 points). A great individual job grew from a collective idea.
With Luis Suarez, the changes in Uruguay’s tactics were also noticeable in his work against Russia. Against Egypt and Saudi Arabia, he floated as the centre forward he used to be. Against the Russians, he played a little distant from the box, using his movements to open spaces for Cavani.
Against Egypt, Suarez had four shots worth 637 points, at an average of 159 points per shot. Against Saudi Arabia, it was five shots (with one goal) and 1,108 points.
Against Russia, Suarez only took one shot, but it was a beautiful set piece scored with intelligence and great vision. That was the complete offensive action from El Pistolero in the match.
The fact is that Uruguay are ready to dream. They have the experience, they have the manager, they have the human resources to play against stronger teams. Portugal wait for them in the next stage, and it will be a great game to watch.
We can’t foresee if Suarez and Cavani are going to score again. But I’m sure they are going to make some difference in the collective behaviour of La Celeste.