Another round of World Cup qualifying has passed us by. This time things were not as smooth for Uruguay. Uruguay just failed to get going despite getting the three points at home to Ecuador and then managing to sink to a 3-1 loss away to Chile.
Traces of poor concentration and poor play could be traced back to the Ecuador game. Uruguay beat Ecuador in the Centenario yes, but let’s look at the facts, we got the points despite playing poorly in the second half. Uruguay was lucky because a full strength Ecuador team could have caused some damage and could have taken a point away considering how we played in the second half. Ecuador’s defence was poor as usual and Uruguay took advantage of poor marking to allow Coates to put away the first goal. Ecuador was without some key players; Enner Valencia, Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero. Gaston Silva would of had difficulty containing the experienced Antonio Valencia. Despite the absence of their main players, Ecuador fought on and equalized through Felipe Caicedo before Rolan would score the game’s final goal right after. Ecuador came close to equalizing in the second half but what mattered was the three points. Anyways the press in Uruguay ignored the poor performance and focused on the three points essentially writing this off as an one off. A sense of complacency was starting to creep in.
This supposed lead that Uruguay had is now shrinking in front of our own eyes after the defeat to Chile, as the difference between second and fourth placed Chile is three points while even fifth placed Argentina is only 4 points. Defeat at the hands of Chile always hurts but it didn’t seem like it would after the opening half an hour was played in Santiago, because Uruguay were playing well and Chile looked nervous and off. Cavani fired home a good finish from an amazing Suarez play to give us the lead. Uruguay continued to press and really should of had an penalty kick after Bravo raced off his line to bring down Cavani, it was a really poor call from the referee who didn’t have the best of games in my opinion. Honestly Uruguay really could of been 2 or 3 nothing up in the first half with the non-call from the referee and the chances missed by Cavani, but that’s football for you and we can’t make any excuses because as the game went on Uruguay’s performance dipped and we sat back and we once again invited the opponent. A lapse in concentration and poor defensive covering allowed for Vargas to equalize and poor goalkeeping from Muslera allowed Sanchez to score, a shot that really should’ve been saved. The third goal was a nice one from Sanchez but just a summary of the night before it was all topped off by Suarez’s penalty miss which you could feel coming from the moment he picked up the ball. Below are the highlights of the match against Chile.
Now in typical Uruguay fashion we tend to question Tabarez after any loss, why throw on Ramirez for Sanchez, why Lodeiro? Arevalo Rios looked like a spectator out there, barely having the legs to keep up with Chile’s outpouring bursts in the midfield. I liked the look of Vecino in the game, getting forward trying to set things up Álvaro Gonzalez and Arevalo Rios were a step behind him. Gonzalez hasn’t played a single minute for his club Lazio this season and hasn’t featured in a game in nearly 5 months’ time, yet he still found a way into the team. Alvaro Gonzalez wasn’t awful but still lacked that usual “Tata” edge we get in the big games from him. I’ll also mention the lack of attacking edge Gaston Silva brings to the team as a full back, he’s a good defender and a more solid choice in my opinion then Alvaro Pereira but I’m sure we all miss the old Caceres a lot more by this point. Uruguay will definitely need some change going forward but at this rate we will most likely finish the qualifying campaign with mostly the same players. We are an aging team and you can just look at the setup and tell we need some youth, some spark like we once had in 2010 and 2011. Now I don’t ask for extreme change because that will not benefit the team but if we can keep an strong base of the team and surround it with some youth I think that will really benefit the national team. That base for me is; Muslera, Gimenez, Godin, Vecino, Sanchez, Suarez, Cavani, that leaves us with four spots. Four spots to fill with players that will provide a more positive outlook on the team, Uruguay needs to remain an defensive team but we need to find a balance, a point where we can transition from sitting back to going onto the attack during games rather than just sitting back once we score and sending pelotazos to Suarez hoping for the best. Let’s be honest we may have better individual players in key positions than Chile but their style of play topped us on the night. Uruguay can’t keep coming into big games and bringing this negative approach because it doesn’t always work, we lose in Argentina, yes we tied Colombia away and here we lost to Chile that’s three games where Uruguay has failed to win and could of won with a better style of play. Honestly just a few things need to be fixed and if we can get Uruguay up and running as a team that focus on defending first but can effectively counter attack and transition nicely between attacking and defining like Atletico Madrid does then we will be in very good shape for the next World Cup. Overall throughout the two games, Uruguay really didn’t consistently look like the Uruguay we’ve seen for the majority of these qualifiers we looked out of it. We suffered from poor lapses in concentration to goalkeeping errors, honestly Muslera saves Sanchez’s second goal we could have maybe taken an point. Of course let’s not even go back to the horrible decision to ignore a clear penalty for Uruguay in the first half which really could’ve changed the course of the game. Yes, those are important factors in the game but overall when those things don’t go your way in your game it comes down to your ability and style of play that can put you back in a good position in the game.
I think a sense of complacency was in Uruguay’s mind. There really was no pressure coming into these two games because of the points already picked up and lead we had in the table, which is starting to shrink. Anyways let’s not get too technical now and focus on the most important objective which is to book a place in Russia 2018. Usually, Uruguay experiences a dip in form during World Cup qualifying, we haven’t seen that yet and now is it not the time to see it, because a loss against Brazil in March means we could move down to as low as 4th place. That would throw us intothe mix of teams fighting for places and the lead we once had is gone and the calculator which we thought was put away is taken out of our pockets again to crunch all the numbers for La Celeste. It’s a tough call to beat Brazil without Suarez and Muslera even if we are at home. But I think a point against Brazil in the Centenario is a real possibility. Judging by the way these qualifiers are going to confirm your place in Russia it’s going to take anywhere above 28 points at the least, I would even expect 30 points if you want to avoid the ever so usual “repechaje.” Uruguay should only need 6 more points with 6 games left. It is however a little premature to look beyond the games in March because Uruguay is not in any real trouble yet but if we can get at lest 4 points in March against Brazil and Peru then I think we can put away our calculators for good. Then again, anything can happen with Uruguay honestly we could lose our next two games or even win them, that’s the beauty of supporting this team you never really know what you’re going to get. One thing is for certain, that the qualifiers are back on for us again and it starts in March against Brazil.