Germany had arguably been the best team in World cup 2010 before the semi-finals, but they finally met their match on Wednesday night. Spain showcased the finest piece of midfield defending seen in this tournament as they suffocated Germany’s quick-fire passing game with their incessant pressing and kept Mesut Özil, the spark of Germy’s creativity, in check . The result was a flattering 1-0 for Germany since, as in the Euro final two years ago, the Germans were soundly beaten by a Spanish side near to the peak of their power.
Uruguay, who were also outplayed in their semi-final against Holland, can take heart from the manner of Germany’s defeat. Uruguay’s midfield defending has, at times, been second to none in the tournament and, if they find the right strategy, it might prove to be their meal ticket. Now that Luis Suarez is back after suspension, Uruguay have regained their counter-attacking venom and can go to the third-place play-off full of confidence.
Tricky tactical decisions for Uruguay
Uruguay will have to make some difficult tactical decisions before kick-off. The key to Spain’s victory over Germany was that Spain controlled the midfield through their numerical advantage. This puts Uruguay into a difficult position. On the one hand, they could try to emulate Spain and stock the centre of the park with their hounding ball-winners. But on the other, Uruguay would do better to learn from their own semi-final defeat and not try to excessively man the midfield only with defensive midfielders. Against Holland Uruguay’s attacking was seldom fluid as they weren’t able to link their midfield and attack successfully.
Uruguay are still without Diego Lugano in defence but, apart from their captain, Oscar Tabarez is able to field his strongest eleven. In defence Jorge Fucile is back from suspension and will probably take his place on the left side of the defence. If this happens, Martin Caceres, who after some early troubles did a good job tracking Arjen Robben, might switch to the right where he played for Juventus last season. If this happens, the industrious Maximiliano Pereira could switch to midfield. Caceres offers more pace and muscle than either Fucile of Pereira and could, therefore, be used to cancel out either Thomas Muller’s (who also returns to the starting line-up after suspension) or Lucas Podolski’s directness and dynamism. Diego Godin and Mauricio Victorino will retain their place in centre defence.
Uruguay are expected to start with a 4-4-2 formation. Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani will start in attack and Diego Forlan will operate more freely in the hole behind the front two. If Tabares chooses a more cautious approach, the midfield duo of Diego Perez and Egidio Arevalo will be joined by Walter Gargano; if Tabarez wants more movement and attacking intent, he will go for either Maximiliano Pereira or Alvaro Pereira. When Uruguay have the ball they will play in a diamond formation in midfield but when they lose possession, Perez will drop into a deeper central position while Cavani becomes an auxiliary wide midfielder.
Germany will not be making any major changes to either their personnel or tactics. Their semi-final defeat was more down to the excellence of the opposition than to any tactical failing to do wiht their strategy. Germany can, therefore, rely on their system to deliver the goods and not worry too much about the opposition. However, they do need to wary of not go all gung-ho with the full-backs and expose their flanks to Uruguay’s counter-attacks. Also, if Uruguay start with a three man attack (basically, at least), Forlan’s movement will pose a great danger between their midfield and defence.
Both teams should be extremely hungry for the third place. For Germany’s young squad, it would be a solid foundation on which to build their glorious future. And for Uruguay, this is basically a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In recent World Cups, the third-place play-off matches have offered great entertainment. This match should be no exception to the rule.