Another major tournament another exit at the quarterfinals. The Quarterfinal curse has been real for Uruguay as they fell at that step yet again at the Copa America. The La Celeste have been shown the door by fellow heavyweights Colombia on penalties. What has gone wrong again for Uruguay at the Copa America?
— Selección Uruguaya (@Uruguay) July 4, 2021
Oscar Tabarez’s side weren’t in the best of forms. They were just given an outsider’s chance to make it to the semis and let alone win the tournament. Without deviating much from the script, Uruguay suffered as expected. They opened the tournament with a 1-0 loss to Argentina. A dour 1-1 draw followed against Chile. They managed to string two successive wins against Bolivia and Paraguay to make it to the quarters.
It was at the quarters where they were brutally exposed. Toothless in attack and brittle at the back Uruguay finished the regulation time tied with Colombia at 0-0. Colombian captain David Ospina came clutch to save two penalties from Uruguay and knocked them out. This matched their previous result from the Copa 2019. Peru similarly eliminated them on penalties at the same stage. A year further ago France ended Uruguay’s world cup ambitions at the quarter-final stage itself.
We break down what has gone wrong for the La Celeste at the Copa America.
OSCAR TABAREZ’S MANAGEMENT
The legendary Uruguayan manager was one of the best managers in the world. Coming into the tournament he was regarded as one of the best and experienced minds around. Oscar Tabarez was the one who won the 2011 Copa America for them. The “El Maestro” revived Uruguayan football in a sharp decline in his second spell. He has battled several odds to be still at the helm for them.
Not forgetting what he has done for the club, Tabarez can be blamed for Celeste’s early exit from the tournament. In modern football, each tactic and minute detail pays off one way or the other on the field. Having multiple backup plans when the main approach goes sideways is a must. Tabarez didn’t have this in his arsenal to change games for Uruguay.
The veteran coach used his tried and tested system of 4-4-2 albeit with variations in midfield. Despite the minor tweaks in the opening formation, they played the same way in-game. Two banks of four were seen behind the two strikers. Full-backs who became such an important attacking outlet in the recent past weren’t used at all by Tabarez. His idea of football was also pretty simple and depended on extremes. Either hold the ball completely or be without it and hit only on the breaks.
Tabarez’s substitutions would arise suspicions. Even when they were losing or drawing he didn’t trust his bench enough to change the games. In the quarter-final clash against Colombia, he used only two of five possible substitutions and settled for a penalty shootout long before the game actually ended.
There is no denying how much Tabarez has done for the national side. Considering his form of late, a new attack-minded coach must be handed the reins of the national team.
OVERRELIANCE ON SUAREZ AND CAVANI
A team is lucky to have one of the best strikers in the world. Uruguay is blessed with not one but two of that kind. In Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, they have two of the elite sharpshooters in the past two decades. The duo already led Uruguay to their title glory in 2011 and were their nation’s biggest hope again.
— Selección Uruguaya (@Uruguay) June 29, 2021
The veteran strikers fired this time again. But it wasn’t certainly enough to save them. Suarez and Cavani both 34 years of age now scored almost all of their goals at the tournament. Suarez scored their first goal of the tournament in their second match against Chile. Cavani then scored two goals in the next two games as they progressed to the knockouts. The fearsome strike pair were effectively subdued by the Colombian defence in the quarters.
⏳ 60´ de juego en Cuiabá.
Uruguay 0-1 Chile pic.twitter.com/jxLuAcHX3A
— Selección Uruguaya (@Uruguay) June 21, 2021
They were supposed to be the country’s biggest asset. But the overreliance on them has made them the weak link of the side. They have entirely left the goalscoring responsibilities to the pair and didn’t have a goal in them. Besides, Tabarez overlooked talents like Darwin Nunez before the tournament. Hence their bench had no quality to support the team.
LACK OF A STRONG MIDFIELD
Uruguay mainly suffered from a lack of goals at Copa America. Overdependence on the strike pair is one of the reasons. The other reason might be attributed to the absence of a creative midfield. They have good midfielders on paper, but in-game they have failed to translate the fluency.
— Fede Valverde (@fedeevalverde) June 29, 2021
Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde, Inter’s Matias Vecino, and Flamengo’s Giorgian de Arrascaeta are fluent individuals but failed to click as a team. They were also not helped by the fact that they had no fixed position in the midfield. One day they’re box-to-box midfielders the other day they are deployed wide on the flank.
They missed a natural midfield leader who could stabilize the field and call the shots. A defensive enforcer and an attacking presence are a must. A new coach incoming must do what’s better for the team and make any required changes in the midfield.