Uruguay’s last breath was a sad metaphor of their own

The great question for Uruguay was how to maintain their game model without Edison Cavani. As we talked about here, Uruguay’s strength is based on their duos’ work: Godin & Gimenez at the back and Suarez & Cavani at the front. Throughout the World Cup, there was no midfield build-up play star man or ideas that pushed the team to work the ball from the middle.

Tabarez likes the long balls. It was always like that, and there’s no difference in this 2018 team. Well, Cavani had important work as forward, sometimes building deep position in the six yard box, other times opening the field creating chances and giving assistance.

Against France, Cristhian Stuani, a 31 year old forward from Girona FC, was responsible for replacing the PSG star man, and replicating all his actions on the pitch. That would be a burden for any player, but especially for an ordinary forward with no great international background.

Looking at his Twelve dashboard, Stuani scored -14 points in 58 minutes played. A really terrible performance by a player who is expected to be a great part of the scene. A lot of errors and a poor job with the ball made Stuani’s performance forgettable.

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Colombia 1-1 England (3-4 pens): Unrecognizable Colombia flying home

From a tactical perspective, it was not the brightest match from the Cafeteros. Pekerman’s strategy was to stop the ball circulation from England’s midfielders and that was crucial for a team with such offensive vocation.

We saw in our previous analyses how Juan Quintero plays a central role on Colombia’s team, and how all the build-up thinking passes thorough him.

Well, when Colombia most needed the football from his ball wizard, Quintero had his worst performance in the tournament. Aggravated by the absence of star man James Rodriguez, we saw a Colombian team worried more about American referee Mark Geiger’s actions rather than it’s own football playing.

Quintero scored 662 points in 88 minutes, an average of 7.5 points per minute, and he only played one important pass on Twelve’s dashboard (worth 86 points at minute 75). A very poor production from such a key player.

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Uruguay 2-1 Portugal: Duos are making the difference.

On the same day Messi was sent home by France in Argentina’s loss, the other “GOAT” at this tournament was also eliminated. And it was only two weeks ago that Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the same stadium against Spain, stroking his chin after the first goal to imply he was the “greatest of all time.”

This time it was Cavani who instead took the spotlight. He combined with Luis Suarez to complete a series of precision passes to give Uruguay the early advantage with a header in the seventh minute.

In this map from OPTA, we can see how Cavani starts the build-up play from his own half, and attacked the space on Portugal’s six yard box to receive the assist from Suarez. Great goal. In fact, the ball hit his face and bounced in but the combination play was still something to savour.

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Colombia Analysis: What Lies In Wait For England?

Passing through Group H with good football moments and some really not good looking situations, Colombia face England as a very irregular team with some important flaws that can be explored by Southgate’s Three Lions.

Juan Quintero has been Colombia’s best player at the tournament so far, with bright performances in the first two games against Japan and Poland. He is a good creator and also a good ball carrier. His decision making can be questionable at times, but nevertheless he tries to make something happen and pulls it off more often than not.

These attributes have been moderated and put to incomplete use with James’ inclusion in the side. Quintero dropped himself deeper, allowing James to be incisive in attack.

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Cavani & Suarez will always make the difference for Uruguay

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. Read More

A new role for Roberto Firmino in Brazil

There is no centre forward who works as hard to win back the ball as Roberto Firmino. He sets the tempo for Liverpool but he is so much more than just a workhorse. He gets into positions where many forwards would go for glory but Bobby is unselfish.

And yesterday we watched a new chapter on that story when Firmino entered for Brazil against Costa Rica; not as Gabriel Jesus’s substitution, as usual, but as Paulinho’s replacement.

Playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation Paulinho has many defensive skills, but he is well known for his entries in the six yard box and his potential as a striker. There is even a joke in the Brazilian team saying Paulinho is the true centre forward of the Seleção.

Unfortunately, the Barcelona midfielder did not have a good day, and the Brazilian team felt his poor offensive contribution. He was also marked by the good defensive job of Costa Rica and their line of five.

Taking a look at Firmino’s work in the Premier League with Liverpool, we can see a typical centre forward action: offensive presence in the opponents’ area and defensive presence is his area, to assist with set piece balls.

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France 1-0 Peru: No more war for Guerrero

Peru suffered their second defeat, and they are eliminated from the World Cup without scoring a goal. There remains a last match against Australia, but the dream is over. It was surely not the expectation of the tens of thousands of Peruvian fans who believed in their team’s strengths in it’s first World Cup appearance since 1982.

This was another story of Peru working hard, passing the ball well with style but rarely threatening. Their best first-half chance came when record-scorer Paolo Guerrero sprinted in front of Samuel Umtiti but Hugo Lloris, on his 100th cap for France, got down well to block the chance.

And that was about it. Really not the volume of chances you expect from a team who arrived in Russia full of ambition, and with good players aiming to make history.

In total Peru had 10 attempts, with only two on target. The other decent effort was a shot from Pedro Aquino: a wonderful curling strike from 30 yards which had beaten Lloris but cannoned off the angle between post and crossbar.

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Quintero vs. James: the Colombian issue

Maybe the greatest surprise of the day was not Japan beating Colombia (which was the first time they beat a South American team in the World Cup), but the absence of star man James Rodriguez in the initial XI of the Cafeteros.

With Juan Quintero playing James’s functions, we expected a Colombian team working the ball, valuing possession and being less vertical on offensives transitions as usual.

But the red card to Sanchez at the beginning of the match pushed Quintero to play as a “regista”, close to the defensive line and making long ball passes to connect with the attack.

We can see this in his first half heatmap and pass map from OPTA. Quintero was making correct connections with the right side, where Juventus forward Cuadrado moves and allows good passing lines. There was not the same accuracy on the left side, with Izquierdo.

Maps from OPTA

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