Ghana v Uruguay: tactical preview

July 1, 2010

Probable starting line-ups

How many people predicted that one of these sides would make it into the semi-final?

Both were considered slight dark horses before the tournament started – Uruguay largely because of the Forlan-Suarez partnership upfront, Ghana because of their strong showing at the Africa Cup of Nations. Regardless, both have surprised many by reaching the quarter-final stage.

The two line-ups are fairly predictable – Uruguay’s in particular, because Oscar Tabarez named his side 48 hours before kick-off. The only major issues are that Mauricio Victorino comes in for the injured Diego Godin, whilst Alvaro Fernandez replaces Alvaro Pereira in midfield.

Ghana have two suspensions forcing Milovan Rajevac’s hand. Firstly, Jonathan Mensah (commonly referred to as Jonathan, to differentiate from John Mensah) is out, as is left-sided midfielder Andre Ayew. Jonathan’s absence will result in Isaac Vorsah returning to the first XI in a straight swap, but Ayew’s replacement will probably be Sulley Muntari – a more defensive player than Ayew. Although Muntari is used to playing on the left-hand side, and has the ability to get up and down throughout the game, it might mean Asamoah Gyan is more isolated than usual.

When you consider that the other ‘winger’ will probably be converted full-back Samuel Inkoom, you realise what a defensive-minded team Ghana are playing. It will be interesting to see how they defend in midfield – whether they’ll drop deep, invite Uruguay onto them, and attempt to play on the counter-attack, or whether they’ll press higher up the pitch and not allow the Uruguayan midfielders time on the ball.

The key to Ghana’s defensive play is how they deal with Diego Forlan. He has been in superb form so far – not as prolific as Luis Suarez, but his deeper position means he’s been more involved in build-up play, and more of an influence on the game as a whole. Suarez and Edinson Cavani will look to occupy a centre-back and a full-back each, and so the job of closing down Forlan will probably fall to the tough-tackling central midfielder Anthony Annan. So far, he hasn’t looked to get goalside of opposing attacking midfielders – he left Mesut Oezil play between the lines, and Ghana were punished – but with Forlan playing as a true trequartista, he probably needs the attention of a midfielder.

Ghana’s method of attack will be their usual – winning the ball in the midfield and constructing quick mini-counter-attacks by driving directly at the Uruguayan defence, and by playing balls over the top for Gyan. Tabarez will instruct Egidio Arevalo and Diego Perez to sit ahead of the centre-backs and track the runs from Kwadwo Asamoah and Kevin Prince Boateng – the man with a slightly different role will be Fernandez, who may play ahead of those two, allowing Forlan to get more space, or play on the left, as Alvara Pereira does.

The question of who will be braver with their full-backs may decide the game. Uruguay won’t break down the Ghana defence if they only attack with three players, and with the wide forwards taking up central positions in the final third, they need support in wide areas. Muntari will have to do a good defensive job against the powerful runs of Maxi Pereira.

It’s difficult to see either side significantly changing their shape, and equally difficult to predict a winner.

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