2018 World Cup: Group A Tactical Preview
Group A consists of CONMEBOL runners-up (Uruguay), CAF Group B winners (Egypt), AFC Group B runners-up (Saudi Arabia) and hosts Russia. Led by strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, Uruguay look like favourites to top a tricky group.
Egypt, led by an in-form Mohamed Salah, should qualify ahead of hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia, but Salah’s injury concerns have left them in a quandary whether to start their talisman against Uruguay on June 15th.
Russia, the host nation, will get all the support of the fans but the lack of quality players means the hosts could crash out in the group stages. Saudi Arabia, perhaps the weakest team in the group, are no pushovers themselves but getting past the group stage seems a bridge too far for them.
14th June: Russia vs Saudi Arabia
15th June: Egypt vs Uruguay
19th June: Russia vs Egypt
20th June: Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia
25th June: Saudi Arabia vs Egypt
25th June: Uruguay vs Russia
How they qualified
Uruguay did incredibly well to finish 2nd in CONMEBOL qualifiers, finishing ahead of tournament favorites Argentina and dark-horses Colombia. PSG’s Edinson Cavani finished as the top scorer with 10 goals, while his striking partner and Barcelona hitman Luis Suarez bagged 5 goals. Uruguay are two-time winners of the World Cup, although their last triumph was way back in 1950.
Tactics & Formation
Under coach Oscar Tabarez, who is in his second stint as Uruguay manager, the team plays a 4-4-2 system. They have a solid and experienced backline led by goalkeeper Fernando Muslera and Atletico Madrid center-backs Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez. The midfield will be led by Inter Milan’s Matias Vecino who can unlock the best of defences.
Juventus’s Rodrigo Bentancur could play wide right but pushes high up in attack, while the left midfielder tucks in, with either Suarez or Cavani peeling to the left to give the team a 4-3-3 formation while attacking.
Uruguay have a direct style of attack, using the long-range passing abilities of Godin to pick out the full-backs on the overlap or exploit Cavani and Suarez’s ability to break behind the defensive line.
Players to Watch out for
Luis Suarez: The talisman of the team, fresh from another brilliant season with Barcelona, Suarez will look to repeat his 2010 heroics. Uruguay’s all-time top scorer, the onus will be on both Suarez and Cavani to unsettle opposition defences.
Diego Godin: While Uruguay have the attacking prowess to trouble opposing defenses, they also have some good defenders of their own. An exemplary captain, Diego Godin, along with club-mate Jose Gimenez will be tasked with organizing the backline.
Lucas Torreira: Torreira has had an outstanding season in a young, dynamic Sampdoria midfield and can create chances with his astute passing and tough tackling.
Uruguay’s combination of explosive firepower and gnarled toughness should see them comfortably into the knock-out stages. Group Winners.
Head coach: Oscar Tabarez
Goalkeepers: Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama), Martin Campana (Independiente).
Defenders: Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez (both Atletico Madrid), Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Maximiliano Pereira (Porto), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Martin Caceres (Lazio), Guillermo Varela (Penarol).
Midfielders: Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matias Vecino (Inter Milan), Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Diego Laxalt (Genoa), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Jonathan Urretaviscaya (Monterrey).
Forwards: Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta Vigo), Edinson Cavani (Paris St-Germain), Luis Suarez (Barcelona).