The curtains were drawn on the Copa America and to be completely honest, it wasn’t the most exciting of tournaments. One might argue though that the so called ‘smaller’ teams or underdogs if you will, of South American football came out on top. Seldom has there been a Copa America final where traditional Copa America powerhouses Brazil and Argentina haven’t featured. It was a tournament for the underdogs but it also saw the rise back to glory of a once sleeping giant of World football – Uruguay.
Uruguay went into the game as expected with no real surprises in Oscar Tabarez’s line-up. He deployed a very effective 4-4-2 formation in the absence of Napoli hitman Edinson Cavani with Luis Suarez partnering Diego Forlan in attack. Suarez had really been setting the tournament on fire with his dazzling performances, while Forlan had yet to get his name on the score-sheet. Diego Perez returned to the line-up to partner the monstrous Arevalo Rios in midfield.
Paraguay manager Gerardo Martino was suspended from the sidelines and made four changes to the side that beat Venezuela in the semi-finals. They were also dealt a blow with striker Lucas Barrios struggling for fitness. Indeed, his tenure in the second half of the game short lived as he was stretchered off within seven minutes of his arrival, possibly damaging his hamstring.
Attack Is The Order Of The Day
Oscar Tabarez’s side displayed clear attacking intent and took the game to Paraguay from the outset. La Albirroja weren’t given a moment’s rest and were on the back-foot, constantly under pressure from Uruguay’s early blitz. This was a real team in motion, hunting down at Paraguay players in possession not giving them space to breathe. Finally, Paraguay succumbed to Uruguay’s early onslaught in the 12th minute of the game when Luis Suarez latched on to a deflection, controlled the ball immaculately and slotted past a hapless Justo Villar.
Paraguay were shell-shocked and their defense looked in shambles. The general perception ahead of the game was, Paraguay should’ve counted themselves ‘lucky’ to find a place in the final. Ironically enough, they were a shade unlucky to concede as Maxi Pereira’s deflected shot fell kindly to striker Suarez’s feet. The goal was coming though and was a deserved one at that.
The Midfield Battle: Arevalo vs Ortigoza
As we all know, the midfield is the most crucial part of the field. Games can be won and lost subject to a more dominant and influential midfield. Testament to which was Uruguay’s impeccable midfield performance and that of one man in particular – Egidio Arevalo Rios. Arevalo completely bossed the area, stifling his opponents in midfield.
Paraguay’s Nestor Ortigoza in particular fell victim to Arevalo’s annoyingly successful persistence. Ortigoza controversially handled the ball on the line in the early exchanges of the game and should’ve been sent off. Uruguay were denied a clear-cut penalty and perhaps justice was served later on when Arevalo robbed Ortigoza of possession and slid the ball to Diego Forlan. The Atletico Madrid marksman unleashed a powerful left-footed drive that comprehensively beat Justo Villar to double Los Celeste’s lead and open his account in the Copa America. On the night, Arevalo got the better of Ortigoza time and again and perpetually hounded him. Ortigoza was on a tight leash and looked rattled at the very sight of Arevalo who didn’t allow him his desired space and time on the ball.
Tactical Showdown – Tabarez outwits Martino
It was a game in which everything went Oscar Tabarez’s way and a game in which he got everything right. His side absolutely crushed Paraguay in every area of the pitch. He couldn’t have asked for a more outstanding performance from his brilliant attacking partnership. The defensive shield was sound and solid. Diego Lugano’s domineering presence at the back was complimented by young Coates who has raised eyebrows with his impressive showings. While Alvaro and Maxi Pereira’s offensive forays down the flanks caused mayhem to the Paraguay defence who were very narrow themselves.
Gerardo Martino’s side couldn’t keep a hold of the possession and on the occasions they did hold the ball, they were too hasty. Their tempo and approach to the match did not in the least suit their game. This was not how they were built to play and were clearly not comfortable. An otherwise solid unit who used to pride themselves on their defensive capabilities were left exposed far too many times. Maybe the weight of the Copa America final and the pressure on their shoulders got to them or maybe the absence of their manager from the sidelines affected their organization. Their lack of width was worrying as well as – they were too narrow which allowed even more space for Maxi and Alvaro Pereira to exploit. Estigarribia, the scourge of Dani Alves was sorely missed. His natural width and trickiness was lacking in attack for the Paraguayans.
Diego Forlán: “My grandfather won the cup, my father won it, an now I’ve won it”.
Forlan’s secong goal which put the game beyond any doubt was the pick of the lot and capped off a great night for the Uruguayans. A text-book counter-attacking move with elements of pace, precision and finesse that saw the talented attacking trio of Cavani, Suarez and Forlan involved. A move that was perfectly executed, that left the Paraguay defense in sixes and sevens. Cavani picked out Suarez, whose accurate header set Forlan through on goal. With just the keeper to beat, Forlan picked his spot and finished off well into the bottom right corner to join Hector Scarone as all time top goal-scorer for Uruguay with 31 goals.
Move over Brazil and Argentina
With this flawless performance in the Copa America, Uruguay have firmly established themselves as the team to beat in South America. Los Celeste are now the most decorated side in the history of the competition with a marvelous 15 titles to their name and can probably go on to dominate South American football for years to come. They’ll have it much harder though against their European counterparts but after this performance who can doubt their ability and passion.