In part 2 of my interview with TheBigFeller –– who is in Uruguay at the moment, researching and writing a book called “Garra – A History of Uruguayan Football” –– we talk about Brazil’s chances in 2014, the FIFA World Ranking and who needs to be sacrificed in Uruguay’s starting XI in order for Uruguay to have a chance in 2014.

Which pitch/home stadium did you like the best? In terms of atmosphere and supporters?

TheBigFeller: I like Parque Central a lot. But there are very serious problems here in terms of violence and hooliganism in the club game, which means thousands of people no longer feel safe in watching their clubs. That’s a desperate tragedy; and again, something which the authorities seem to be doing nothing about. Beyond that, Defensor is safe (except when Danubio come to town!); but too many other clubs are not.

Your opinion of Uruguay’s domestic football league?

TBF: Moderate. But what can it do when economic forces mean the best players are sold to clubs in Brazil and Argentina; or Spain, Italy or England? Compare and contrast the Peñarol squad which reached the Libertadores final to that of the past season: if a team is successful, it’s broken up immediately.

Where does Uruguay really stand internationally?

TBF: As I said above, other than in the bizarre cases of England and Brazil, the rankings don’t lie. I put Uruguay either 3rd or 4th at present: only Spain and Germany are consistently better, and you cannot argue with a combination of 4th place at the World Cup, 1st place at the Copa America and an unbeaten start to the eliminatorias… not to mention a record breaking unbeaten run. La Celeste are a top four side, no doubt about it.

Don’t you think the FIFA world ranking has more to do with the decline of other football associations? I mean yes, Spain deserves to be ranked first because they’ve won everything under the sun… but Uruguay? Isn’t Uruguay’s rise married to a certain extent with Argentina & Brazil’s decline?

TBF: You could argue that – but really, so what? Argentina had been failing at major tournaments for many years before Uruguay’s resurgence; Brazil were actually extremely strong under Dunga, and I still think they were the only side in South Africa who could have resisted Spain. Now, they’re in a lot of trouble – but they’ll be back by the time the finals come around. Write off both Brazil and Argentina at your peril: and in a World Cup played in South America, both will be massive contenders.

Brazil has looked very ordinary –– Are not playing in the Qualifiers and are considered a favorite to win it all… Do you think that’s fair?

TBF: Most shrewder punters have woken up to Brazil’s problems. They certainly wouldn’t be World Cup favourites were the tournament being played anywhere else. But that in itself will make a massive difference: opposing sides will be intimidated, FIFA can surely be expected to give them a favourable draw, and whoever their coach is (it surely won’t be Menezes: I find it inconceivable he won’t be replaced soon) will have time to experiment and develop an effective blend.

The Seleção; 2014 favorites?

Do I think Brazil will win the next World Cup? No – I think someone will get them at some point, as the pressure proves simply too much, But do I think they’ll take an awful lot of stopping, and probably only the winners will be the side to knock them out? Yes.

Is a World Cup final between Uruguay and Brazil, pure fiction or actually possible?

TBF: Of course it’s possible. It’s entirely possible. Given their consistency in the world rankings, Uruguay are pretty much bound to be seeded, meaning a quarter-final place immediately becomes not just feasible, but quite likely; and after that, the streetwise, cussed nature of the team – precisely what did for Ghana 2 years ago, or Argentina at the Copa – may make all the difference.

This will probably be the final... unless Uruguay has something to say about that.

Put it this way. I honestly believe the World Cup Final will be either Brazil v Argentina; or Brazil v Uruguay. I think the former is a lot more likely than the latter – but the prospect of the latter occurring cannot be dismissed at all.

Uruguay reached the semifinals of South Africa by surprising most of their opponents, Tabárez introduced an elastic tactical formation, that changes according to opponent –– do you think Uruguay will surprise anyone in 2014?

TBF: Have you noticed how many Uruguayans are now plying their trade in Brazil? Forlán and Lodeiro are the latest additions. I think a plan is being followed here: this is all to get as many Uruguayan players as possible used to playing in Brazilian stadia, in Brazilian conditions. And at both the last two major tournaments, Tabárez made a virtue of a necessity and improvised a solution to his lack of a genuine enganche: if that problem persists, El Maestro is more than likely to pull another rabbit from a hat.

Forlán joins the Brasileirão.

He took over in 2006 – but 2010 was just a stepping stone. This whole project has always been about 2014; and as much as we can all see the problems (especially in terms of Forlán, Lugano and Perez being too old), I’ve no doubt he can too, and will have answers.

Yorugua –– Yeah but don’t you think it shouldn’t have to come to that? Why waste roster spots on players like Abreu or Álvaro González? While Nacho González hasn’t shown to be the picture of health, he wouldn’t have to be  groomed into the position the way Ramírez and Lodeiro are. And if Nacho Gonzalez isn’t your cup of tea, there’s Rodrigo Mora. But I feel the enganche (playmaker) Tabárez is looking for doesn’t really exist in Uruguay, I think the type of playmaker Tabárez wants is someone like Wayne Rooney and while Lodeiro is stocky in build like Rooney, there’s no way you can turn him into Rooney, just like Ajax couldn’t turn him into the next Messi.

TBF: Don’t get me wrong: Abreu being brought on with, what, 2 minutes left or something against Venezuela had me hooting in derision at the sheer, mindless desperation of it. But he’s in the squad because of the role he plays guiding and helping the younger players, and to keep morale high. There’s a lot more involved in a happy, successful team than merely a fantastic first XI, after all.

Beyond that: yes, sometimes it can look as though Tabárez is just drifting along, not making decisive changes or tactical switches. But as Tim Vickery reminded us on his excellent blog on Sunday, the reality of international football almost always demands pragmatism and compromise. Tabárez’ great 4-2-3-1 project, after all, lasted all of one competitive game, against Peru in 2007; but he’s continued to improvise and find solutions since. That very flexibility and refusal to allow his team to be pigeonholed is, ultimately, a huge strength.

Tabárez surprised everyone in South Africa, by being relevant, hip to the times, making necessary changes when he had to but a year after the Copa America win, hasn’t he regressed a bit? There doesn’t seem to be the same spunk to his coaching. A lot of old firm players are still on this NT and there doesn’t seem to be a hurry from Tabárez to introduce new changes. Do you think he’s capable of masterminding another impressive run in 2 years?

TBF: See above! Your thoughts, as ever, seem to be paralleling mine – but well, I was concerned that nothing was happening in the 12 months between the World Cup and Copa America, yet look what transpired. He simply wouldn’t have agreed to stay on in the job if he didn’t think further improvement was possible; and in that sense, what happens over the next couple of weeks in London will be critical. Answers may reveal themselves there: the Olympics are a huge part of La Celeste’s World Cup preparations, make no mistake about it, and what’s remarkable is how seamless the transition may actually prove.

What do you make of the Suarez/Forlan/Cavani trident. In the last 4 games (Romania, Russia, Venezuela & Peru) the most the three can guarantee you is one goal. What’s wrong with the setup? Is a return to a 4-4-2 the answer? What I mean is, removing one of these players from the lineup?

Edinson Cavani

TBF: I think it’s obvious now that Forlán has run his course as a starter for the national team. He’s an icon, sure – but things have to move on, and Uruguay cannot keep wasting Cavani in the ridiculous way that’s been so apparent recently. This doesn’t mean a reversion to 4-4-2 – Abel Hernández is ready and waiting for his chance – but it does mean that Cavani must be used more centrally. He’s one of the most feared strikers in Europe.

To Be Continued.

Yorugua Yorugua 1 likes

16 Responses so far.

  1. AussieCeleste AussieCeleste says:

    Kanga has correctly noticed how nervous I am now.

    On the one hand, victory against Senegal means certain qualification. But on the other, Spain’s defeat means that they are now on the same side of the draw (semi-final wise) as the winners of the Brazil and Uruguay groups, while the runners-up in our group have an easier route to a medal on what is now a very weak side of the draw.

    Also, the thing that has been worrying me all night – Gaston Ramirez’ calf. We are only 15 days from the Final: if he has damaged it, he’s presumably out of the tournament.

    If not, I can breathe again, and comment that I like Lodeiro behind the strikers with Ramirez retreating into Pirlo’s deeper playmaking role.

    Current score: 0
  2. matiasdf says:

    As for Perez being way too old to be a starter in 2014 (so enter Gargano), I would rather see Maxi Pereira playing El Ruso’s role along El Cacha. You see, he has played as a CM previously, and he has shown quite good ball control while playing his usual right-back role.

    Of course, I wouldn’t try this other than in a friendly for now.

    Current score: 1
    • KangaCeleste KangaCeleste says:

      I wonder if Tabarez will try (again maybe in a friendly first) rios and Ramirez.

      That way forlan can still start.

      I know f

      Current score: 0
    • KangaCeleste KangaCeleste says:

      I wonder if Tabarez will try (again maybe in a friendly first) rios and Ramirez.

      That way forlan can still start.

      I know forlans form has dropped, but Tabarez really seems to see him as his boy.

      I appreciate it doesn’t play to Ramirezs strengths but it might work.

      Current score: 0
  3. thebigfeller thebigfeller says:

    Better scrap my confident comments to AussieCeleste above. What was I thinking?! This is Uruguay in the opening game of a major tournament: it’s always the same.

    Current score: 2
  4. thebigfeller thebigfeller says:

    Yes, but while I essentially agree, the problem is that Gargano just doesn’t do it for Uruguay at all. I’ve never been quite sure why. Pound for pound, he’s a way better player than Perez is now – but I think it’s all about partnerships for Tabarez, and the Rios/Ruso axis is a hard one to break up.

    Needs to happen though, I do agree about that.

    Current score: 1
  5. AussieCeleste AussieCeleste says:

    Also TBF, while I’m VERY pleased that tabarez has a (much) cooler head than I do, what is he waiting for in terms of Gargano replacing Perez as a starter?

    We could see in the Argentina game last year that Perez has become a liability: he was never the quickest but he has lost just enough pace that an unacceptable proprtion of his tackles are mistimed now. It’s not really obvious in Italy due to the extreme slowness of the game there, but Venezuela and Peru both really got the better of him last month. And other teams play 3-4 central midfielders, while Tabarez has actually gone backwards to a 4-4-2, which means Perez is even more hurried in midfield!

    Current score: 2
  6. thebigfeller thebigfeller says:

    Don’t worry AC, it’s the Uruguayan way to always be wary and never take anything for granted!

    I think it’ll go something like this, though:

    Uruguay 2-0 UAE
    GB 1-1 Senegal

    GB 2-0 UAE
    Uruguay 3-1 Senegal

    GB 1-1 Uruguay
    Senegal 1-0 UAE

    GB scrape through in 2nd.

    Current score: 0
  7. AussieCeleste AussieCeleste says:

    TBF, I envy you your confidence.

    I’m now at the point I arrive at on the eve of any major tournament where I’m apprehensive and excited at the same time.

    Your Team GB commments, well, I partially agree, as usual. On the one hand they would have been much stronger with Bale, Henderson, Jones, Walker, Carroll et al. But these players are still all Premiership level players, which is a reflection on a catchment of 65 million people as opposed to 3 million.

    I could imagine the following string of results:

    Uru 1 UAE 0
    Sen 1 GB 1

    GB 3 UAE 0
    Sen 2 Uru 2

    That would leave us going into the last game ahead of GB, but with them knocking us out if they win. And if Cavani or Suarez or Ramirez gets injured………

    Current score: 2
    • KangaCeleste KangaCeleste says:

      Aussie, please don’t take this the wrong way.

      But you mentioned earlier you were not born in Uruguay or of uruguayans heritage but instead became a fan la Celeste.

      I make that point because uruguayans MUST have apprehension before any tournament starts.

      Welcome home. 😉

      Current score: 0
  8. thebigfeller thebigfeller says:

    PS. Oh, and it’ll also need Ramirez to PROVE he is The Man, rather than the pretender it’s still possible he is right now.

    Current score: 1
  9. thebigfeller thebigfeller says:

    Uruguay won’t have a problem getting out of the group. Trust me, they won’t. It’s GB who could have difficulties: they are crap! Uruguay also won’t drop out of the top 5 in the eliminatorias, in which it’s already 5 from 6, with Paraguay, I think, likely to be the odd one out come the end (Argentina-Uruguay-Chile-Colombia-Venezuela).

    Meanwhile, Lippi never made any changes at any point. I was amazed he re-took the job in 2008: everyone could see they were well over the top even then, and he just let them get worse and worse. He lost his hunger and drive; his team took their lead from him. Uruguay aren’t in the same boat at all: yes, changes are needed and will happen, but not drastic ones. It’ll need Gargano to develop a proper understanding with Rios and especially Coates to get far more first team action at Anfield too: there’s been method in Tabarez’ caution, and I’d still say he very much knows best overall.

    Current score: 1
  10. AussieCeleste AussieCeleste says:

    TBF, I largely agree, but I don’t completely agree that Tabarez is correct to delay change for as long as possible.

    Lippi did this at the 2010 World Cup, and his Italian world champions finished bottom of their group, below even New Zealand.

    I agree that Forlan should be part of the 2014 squad, and Perez, and Lugano, although each of them should be reserves by then. But we STILL have Abreu and Scotti posthumously occupying squad positions which should be occupied by younger players to integrate them into the group. Abreu can by all means be “called up” for every World Cup Qualifier as a squad member who just happens never to get a second on the pitch, but in 2014 Abreu and Scotti should be wearing tracksuits as part of the coaching team.

    It is astonishing to think that in spite of Uruguay’s “strong start” to qualifying (which means Bolivia and Venezuela scoring twice each at the Centenario) Uruguay could easily drop out of the top five if it loses away to Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia in the next four matches. And to be honest, 1 point out of 9 in those matches is the most likely outcome.

    I’m facinated by the team for today’s UAE match, and especially that Tabarez has dropped Lodeiro and Rodriguez and seems to be playing Aguirregaray as a right-sided midfielder rather than the less-defensively capable Urretaviscaya. That shows how much Tabarez values the honest workman “Alvaro Gonzalez” role, but also has implications for set-pieces, which Urretaviscaya had been taking against Chile and Panama.

    It’s a pretty conservative starting eleven against a minnow. And it may make getting out of the group quite difficult, because if Senegal, GB and Uruguay end up level on points then goal difference will determine progress, and apart from Gaston Ramirez I see no great creativity or pace behind Cavani and Suarez.

    Current score: 2
  11. thebigfeller thebigfeller says:

    As the perfect coach for Uruguay, Tabarez is the archetypal Uruguayan. You’ll have noticed how, over the years, Uruguay so often start tournaments slowly: drawing early games and refusing to expound too much energy before the knock-out stages begin. Or how they so often end up in 5th place in the qualifiers; or one of the 3rd placed sides to get through from a Copa America group, and so on.

    Why do they do this? Well, the way of life here is to wait, and wait, and wait, and only finally act or make a decision at the very last moment. This isn’t lazy; it’s actually very smart, as the more time which elapses, the longer someone has assess the consequences of a decision and get it right, before preparing themselves mentally for the next challenge.

    Meaning that Tabarez has delayed, and delayed, and delayed… and basically put off making decisive changes to a successful side as long as possible – but that doesn’t mean he won’t make them. He will. It’s just that it’s all about evolution, not revolution.

    Meaning his approach will be more pragmatic than what AussieCeleste wants; but international football is all about pragmatism, and ultimately, the team might not fall into place until the World Cup Finals actually begin. But that’s worked for both the last two major events; Uruguay’s seemingly genetic knowhow means it might well do so again.

    One other thing. Forlan will certainly be in the 2014 squad. Abreu *might* be, but both will play a similar role: old heads providing guidance and experience for the new crop being introduced little by little.

    Current score: 5
  12. Uruguasho says:

    Great article
    I wish my relatives were well off in Uruguay
    I would try to help out TBF if i could

    Anyway hopefully we’ll see what happens at the Olympics.
    If Tabarez proves that his strategies of changing tactics or whatever magic he does,
    works at this Olympic games,
    then it shows we have the potential and capabilities to make it to the world cup final.

    I think Tabarez understands change, he must understand that keeping things fresh, keeping part of the team young, whilst utilizing his nurtured assets/best players
    (I agree on the Cavani thing) and restructuring new ones around current successful models(IE:successful players, strategies/tactics and past game history/team knowledge)
    maybe the key to success

    But Abreu instead of Forlan for direction,I don’t agree. Forlan maybe worn,
    but knowledge and success should ride the same train to the stadium.

    Current score: 1
  13. AussieCeleste AussieCeleste says:

    I agree that Tabarez is excessively conservative with his squad selections, but he has had the Olympics in the background for experimentation.

    As I keep saying, I see a role for Abreu, Scotti, Victorino, Fucile et al but by splitting the squad into two halves for back-to-back qualifiers.

    I am praying that Cavani convinces at the Olympics. Tim Vickery can be heard in an Olympic preview available on iTunes on BBC’s World Football Daily on 16/7, and the presenter Mark Chapman describes Cavani and Suarez as “global superstars”. I’m not sure that even Tabarez fully appreciates that.

    But TBF in this interview again and again acknowledges Tabarez’ Problem Number One: Lugano, Perez and Forlan are in irreversible decline. When we can’t put away an admittedly much-improved Venezuela at the Centenario – and when Peru and Bolivia both score twice there – it is time to refresh the starting eleven.

    But the answer to Problem Number One should also be the guiding principle for Tabarez in every team he has to select. And Principle Number One should be:

    “Cavani is my centre-forward, Suarez is my support striker and Ramirez is my creative midfielder. Who do they need around them, and in what formation?”

    If Tabarez can find the best way to have a front three of Cavani/Suarez/Ramirez, then only Argentina and Spain need to be feared in 2014.

    Current score: 3

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