Uruguay 0-0 France: no cohesion in attacking zones from either side

June 11, 2010

Group A is wide open following the first round of matches, after a draw in both games. The earlier game was open and exciting throughout – this one started well but faded badly as the game went on.

Uruguay’s expected 3-5-2 became a 3-4-1-2 with Ignazio Gonzalez pushing forward to play just behind Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez. Mauricio Victorino came in on the right side of defence, and Egidio Arevalo took the midfield role requiring the most positional discipline.

France’s shape saw one change from the outfield side which started all three pre-tournament games, with Abou Diaby coming in ahead of Florent Malouda, quite possibly after reports of a Malouda-Domenech bust-up yesterday.

Basic pattern of play favours France

Uruguay’s use of a three-man defence against a side playing a lone striker and two advanced wingers caused them problems early on. Franck Ribery created a great chance for Sidney Govou early on after skinning Victorino, who had come wide to meet him, before sliding the ball across the six yard box. Uruguay’s wing-backs started high up the pitch and looked to get forward, but this scare meant Maxi Pereira played a lot deeper, getting goalside of Ribery and effectively meaning Uruguay were doubling up on the wide players when they got the ball, with both the wing-back and outside centre-back.

In this sense Uruguay were fielding something approaching a back five, with two defensive-minded midfielders ahead. To add to this, they held a very deep defensive line and made it difficult for France to play any balls in behind the defence. The two deeper French midfielders had time and space on the ball, and Diaby was probably France’s best player. The problem was that the attacking players were crowded out, with Uruguay often outnumbering France 7 v 4 in the final third.

Uruguay’s forwards struggle

Gonzalez pushing so high up the pitch meant that Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez were forced to drift wider than you would expect for a front two, particularly when Uruguay didn’t have the ball. Although they didn’t track the full-backs, they did move into a zone that made it difficult for Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna to get forward early on.

The downside of this was that Gonzalez moved into a more defensive position when not in possession, and so whenever the ball was played to Forlan or Suarez, they were isolated – being nowhere near each other, and with the wing-backs being pushed back by France’s wingers, lacking an out-ball on the flanks.

There were similar problems upfront from France’s point of view. Nicolas Anelka was completely anonymous in his lone striker role, barely having an impact either in terms of shooting or link-up play. Although he had an extremely difficult job, being up against three central defenders on his own, he didn’t help the problem by keeping the ball for too long and trying to beat his markers – something which never looked like happening with Uruguay having two spare men.

Midfield congestion

The two midfielders naturally cancelled each other out. Jeremy Toulalan plays a deep role, and ran into Gonzalez, whilst a similar thing happened with Arevalo and Gourcuff from the opposite point of view. Diaby and Diego Perez play between the creator and the destroyer, Diaby to the left, Perez to the right. Every midfielder had an opponent in their face straight away, with the exception of when Diaby received the ball in a deep area, which Uruguay were fairly comfortable with.

Uruguay looked blunt when attacking because of the lack of width from the wing-backs. Both Pereiras are at their best when motoring forward, but neither were able to. Gonzalez did nothing, Suarez received little service, Forlan’s first touch was excellent, but his final ball was poor.

Defending Domenech

Every time France don’t win, Domenech will be criticized, but tonight the theory behind his tactics was correct. He didn’t play a second striker and go 4-4-2 because that would have played into Uruguay’s hands – the South Americans still would have had a spare man at the back, and would then have had a 3 v 2 numerical advantage in midfield. Domenech’s tactic of pushing the Uruguay’s wing-backs back worked reasonably well as it meant France dominated the game – having 18 shots to 6.

Domenech also clearly instructed his full-backs to be more attacking after half-time, and Evra and Sagna’s influence on the game increased in the second half.

The main problem for France was that the attacking players were playing awfully – that’s not Domenech’s fault, at least in terms of tactics. When Ribery got space, he sent dreadful crosses in. Gourcuff’s first touch deserted him and used the ball poorly, even when he had options. Govou did little on the ball, but his movement into a more central position helped Sagna get forward into a crossing position.

It is Uruguay who should receive the criticism – rarely getting more than three players forward into attack and showing no ambition throughout the game. France were playing full-backs, Uruguay were playing wing-backs – and yet it was the French pair who got forward more.

Substitutions

Nicolas Lodeiro and Sebastien Abreu were sent on to try and change thing upfront for Uruguay, but unless the system changed, the forwards were unlikely to have much of an impact. Domenech stuck by his system and was entirely justified in taking off Anelka and Gourcuff who both lost the ball far too often, and the replacements of Thierry Henry and Florent Malouda made sense.

The dismissal of Lodeiro changed the game little – it meant Toulalan had more time on the ball, but he’s hardly the player to use that freedom to create chances.

Conclusion

Frankly, it was a poor game and both sides showed little creativity.

Uruguay can be made to look very average by occupying their wing-backs with advanced wingers. Their shape gives the opposition full-backs time on the ball, and they need to get forward to draw Uruguay’s seven defensive players out of their deep positions. Suarez and Forlan seem to be expected to fend for themselves if the wing-backs don’t get forward, but they play too far from each other for this to happen.

France are probably not as bad as this game made them out to be. They’ll probably be more suited to facing Mexico in their next game, as Mexico play a much higher defensive line and are prepared to throw their wing-backs forward into attack.

Uruguay 0-0 France: no cohesion in attacking zones from either side

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