Here I am in a lousy mood, sitting in a ratty economy class seat soaring over the Canadian prairies, sipping on a warm Coke, refusing to pay extra for a stale airline sandwich and my mind is thinking “que ya no rompan los huevos hablando del proceso de Tabarez”. I read the article recently referred to by Yorugua and finally found someone other than this blog that is not happy with Tabarez (although Tenfield was quick to be critical of the political undertones).
I am extremely frustrated of yet another World Cup qualifier which sees us going into the playoff with a team that still has no creative midfield and relies heavily on the genius of one or two players.The papers are full of stories about the successful run of our U17 team and although none of them was discovered or developed by OWT (kudos to the local clubs for that), I keep reading that OWT somehow contributed to their success. At the same time, the U23 which qualified Uruguay for an Olympics after 84 years and OWT personally managed (or mis-managed) at the Olympics, their failure falls squarely on the shoulders of the kids. Never mind the coach allowed them to stand hours during the inauguration ceremonies while other teams were resting, never mind the team looked disorganized and the chemistry was missing. To me, it looks like a personal vendetta. The current NT is full of footballers who as U20s weren’t able to qualify Uruguay for the Olympics, but they are good enough to be part of the NT.
OWT is getting paid the big bucks to “perform”, so let’s look at the facts. Uruguay finished fifth in a Brazil-less Conmebol qualifiers behind Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Ecuador, qualifying for the playoff against Jordan. Not the direct qualification which was expected after the World Cup result and the Copa America victory. In any other World Cup qualifier with Brazil in the mix, the fifth would probably have been a sixth which would have meant no playoff, no World Cup. Furthermore, if you believe the recent FIFA rumblings about Russia 2018, Conmebol will lose its half berth, which means that potentially Uruguay could be at home watching the World Cup on the TV.
Now the coaches and players will “round the wagons” and say it does not matter how you get in, which is a smoke-screen. All those years when the best we could do for friendly competition was Algeria or Indonesia, instead of getting to choose our competition during the November FIFA dates, Uruguay is forced to play lowly Jordan in a home-and-away must-win playoff situation. The directly qualified teams like Colombia, for example, will use those dates to experiment and fine tune against tough highly ranked teams. So who will arrive better prepared at the World Cup? Which “process” makes more sense?
So maybe the standings don’t show it but perhaps there was improvement? At 25 points (7W-4D-5L, 25GF/1.56 per game, 25GA/1.56 per game), there was only a one point improvement over the past qualifiers when OWT experimented with Eguren, Fernandez and Amado in the midfield, Carini and Castillo at goalkeeper, Bueno and Abreu at the forward position until he established his equipo de memoria. Last qualifiers, having to play two extra games against Brazil (which Uruguay lost), Uruguay still finished with 24 points (6W-6D-6L, 28GF/1.56 per game, 20GA/1.1 per game). These qualifiers, Uruguay actually had an extra loss against non-Brazil sides.
On more than one occasion, Uruguay has been saved by Conmebol’s leading scorer Suarez and more, recently, by Cavani. Cavani seems to have finally found his mojo with the national team. Due to another OWT stroke of genius of playing him as a forward! What other coach in his right mind would play one of the world’s premier strikers in the defensive role that Cavani has had to endure? To Cavani’s credit, he has always been a true team player, playing wherever OWT wants to play him and never complaining. Other coaches would never bury their best assets like that, could you imagine Messi or Falcao in a similar role. But even with Suarez and Cavani available, at 25 goals, Uruguay still scored fewer goals than Argentina (35), Chile (29) and Colombia (27). Ecuador lags behind us at 20 and we’re very, very fortunate that Venezuela has absolutely no goal scorers and are the lowest scoring Conmebol side with 14 because a goal here or there could have translated to extra wins or draws for them that could have bumped Uruguay out of fifth place.
OWT’s supporters will argue that OWT has modelled his team on the “old” Italian approach to football, strong defense and counter-attack. They will argue that with the double cinco pit bull midfield, Uruguay plays a more defensive style of football than many of our rivals. But look at the ledger and you find that isn’t so, we have given up more goals at 25 than Colombia (13), Argentina (15), Ecuador (16) and even Venezuela (20)! We are tied with a Chilean side that continues with the ultra-offensive 3-4-3 that Bielsa incorporated years ago which is supposed to be a defensive liability and we are only one better than Markarian’s Peru (26). We gave up 5 more goals that the previous qualifiers despite playing two games less against Brazil! That’s difficult to understand considering that in past qualifiers, we had to endure some terrible performances from Carini and Castillo.
So, the results have been mediocre, not unlike previous coaches, who had to deal with meddling teams and agents, player disharmony, drunken players, etc, etc. Looking at the past and present WCQ,
– 2014 WCQ: 25 points (7W-4D-5L, 25GF, 25GA)
– 2010 WCQ: 24 points (6W-6D-6L, 28GF, 20GA)
– 2006 WCQ: 25 points (6W-7D-5L, 23GF, 28GA)
– 2002 WCQ: 27 points (7W-6D-5L, 19GF, 13GA)
– 1998 WCQ: 21 points (6W-3D-7L, 18GF, 21GA)
– 1994 WCQ: 10 points (4W-2D-2L, 7GF, 3GA)* – teams were split into 2 groups, wins were 2 pts.
– 1990 WCQ: 6 points (3W-0D-1L, 7GF, 2GA)* – teams were split into 3 groups and Uruguay was grouped with Peru and Bolivia.
– 1986 WCQ: 6 points (3W-0D-1L, 6GF, 4GA)* – teams were split into 3 groups and Uruguay was grouped with Chile and Ecuador.
It looks like we are stuck in a plateau; we need change to break through to the next level.
Yet, OWT has tremendous support from the AUF and the 3 million coaching collective known as Uruguay. Maybe, just maybe I just don’t get it. I mean, it’s not like I can buy the “Dummies Guide to OWT Football” and find a chapter on the subject. On the internet, I was able to find a presentation prepared by OWT after the success of the 2010 World Cup where he reviewed the progress of his Masterplan for the Uruguayan national team. You can find the complete slideshow under this link: “Intitucionalización de los Procesos de las Selecciones Nacionales y de la Formación de sus Futbolistas. Versión actualized para el período 2010 – 2014.” To be honest, it’s not exactly mind-blowing stuff.
I know… I supported OWT whole-heartedly after the 2010 World Cup. I knew what he had to endure during those qualifiers. OWT re-juvenated the NT, with the addition of key players like Caceres, Suarez, Cavani and Rodriguez. And he had to qualify because of the huge amount of bonus money available. So he went through his revolving door of players and tried almost every formation, 3-5-2, 4-2-2-2, 4-4-2 diamond, 3-4-3. And the NT qualified. But these three years since the Copa America were supposed to be about entrenching a formula for future success, including continuing to re-juvenate the NT by gradually incorporating the young players whenever the opportunity arose. And in my opinion when Uruguay went through 2012 looking like it wouldn’t qualify, he had ample justification to experiment. He just does not “walk the talk” anymore. He preaches a playing style with short passes with the ball on the ground, but he contradicts himself by continuing to employ pit bull midfielders like Perez, Gonzalez and super-sub Eguren, midfielders with poor passing ability and whose inability to find open spaces forces the defense to play long bombs to the forwards. He talks about slowly incorporating the younger players but even after 3 years, “veterans” to the process like Lodeiro and Ramirez are lucky to be starters and Hernandez has completely been forgotten. OWT is being congratulated for his insertion of Stuani and Gimenez. Gimenez played a great game as centre back against Colombia but he was a “last minute” gamble by OWT. Why do I say that, because Gimenez didn’t met OWT’s self-imposed requirement of playing in Europe (or any other league except the local league) when he was called up, he had just recently signed with Atletico Madrid. And Stuani who has performed well is another player being asked to play out of position. I still believe Castro would be better in that role but kudos to Stuani.
I have been reading Tenfield’s interviews with all the coaches in Primera Division. The coaches were asked who they emulated or who had the greatest influence on them; only one mentioned OWT! Tenfield also asked if there was a “escuela del futbol Uruguayo”; most coaches made reference to the “garra” or never die attitude, but with few exceptions, were not able to answer the question. Some clubs have their own historical styles like Danubio or Defensor who emphasize possession and are true to them. Other clubs have recently hired coaches that were groomed by Defensor and Danubio and so have tried to import their style. Most coaches agreed that ball possession is important, you expend less energy trying to recuperate the ball and you will likely have more scoring opportunities. Not only is the NT’s style of tough defense and opportunistic forwards not very eye-pleasing, at times, it can be very ineffective. And it can’t be a long-term plan to have to rely on being to consistently produce strikers of Suarez and Cavani’s calibre. Aragones was able to re-invent the Spanish team’s style; Low did the same thing for the German team, Prandelli for Italy and to a lesser extent, Pekerman with Colombia. That is what great coaches do!
Are we resigned to being fifth or sixth best in Conmebol, behind Chile, Ecuador and Colombia, with the quality of players we have?