Uruguay 1-1 Ghana: nothing to separate the sides

July 3, 2010

The starting line-ups

A game that got increasingly exciting, before an incredible finale. Penalties and Suarezgate aside, a ‘draw’ was a fair result.

Both sides fielded their expected line-ups – Uruguay had named their team 48 hours before kick-off, whilst Ghana’s team featured the predicted two changes because of suspensions.

The opening to the game was played primarily in Ghana’s half, with Uruguay dominating possession. Their side had been restructured from previous games – it was more of a 4-4-2; Edinson Cavani played on the left, seeming slightly uncomfortable, whilst Alvaro Fernandez was on the right – rarely being involved in the game. Diego Perez and Egidio Arevalo sat deep in midfield.

Ghana played even more defensively than usual, partly because Sulley Muntari, on the left-hand side, is not a natural winger and therefore was playing closer to the central midfielders than to Asamoah Gyan, who struggled for support upfront. They seemed to improve simply by shifting 15 yards further up the pitch midway through the first half – whether this was a deliberate tactic from Milovan Rajevac, or simply a case of Ghana growing in confidence is not clear.

Uruguay were not playing particularly brilliant football, however. Diego Forlan had returned to a central striking role, rather than the near-enganche position where he was the key player. Here, he started to drop deeper and deeper as the game went on, acting as a link player rather than as a goalscorer. The change in formation was not conducive to Forlan creating, however. When he picked the ball up in deeper positions, he generally only had Luis Suarez ahead of him, where with the Uruguayan 4-3-1-2ish shape used in previous games, he had the option of both Suarez and Cavani.

Partly for that reason, and partly because of the poor performances of the wide players, Uruguay created relatively little, despite Ghana playing a rather high defensive line. The better goalscoring opportunities fell to Ghana, and their charge forward was helped by a tactical switch. Kwadwo Asamoah and Kevin Prince Boateng were swapped, making Boateng more of an attacking force. He and Asamoah concerned Perez and Arevalo, creating more time on the ball for Anthony Annan, who became more of an influence as the game went on. Samuel Inkoom and Sulley Muntari also swapped roles, to lesser effect.

The goal came from nothing – a long-range drive from Muntari – although a half-time lead for Ghana was probably a fair reflection on the number of goalscoring chances each side created.

Half-time Uruguay switch

Oscar Tabarez made an important switch at half-time, taking off the ineffectual Fernandez (he completed just three passes in the first half), and bringing on the exciting young winger Nicolas Lodeiro. As well as the immediate effect of Lodeiro’s trickery, it also meant that Cavani was able to move back to his preferred position on the right.

The basic formations of both sides, with Ghana attacking the goal nearest the camera. They have a broad 4-1-4-1 shape, with the most attacking midfielder having joined Asamoah Gyan upfront. Uruguay's shape in attack is slightly unnatural, but Perez and Arevalo sitting solidly ahead of the defence is clear.

Uruguay were suddenly much more cohesive going forward. Forlan was more visible, and they deserved their equaliser – from a swerving Forlan free-kick. At 1-1, the game became simultaneously stretched and cagey – there was plenty of space in midfield, but both sides were reluctant to get too many players forward, partly because of tiredness.

The introduction of substitutes on either side didn’t have the desired impact, and the arrival of Stephen Appiah seemed to push Boateng into a wide role he wasn’t happy with. He had been the best player on the pitch, but being deployed on the flank limited his influence. Sebastien Abreu provided a more direct goal threat than the man he replaced, Cavani, but it pushed Forlan and Suarez into deeper, wider roles where they were unable to combine.

Then came the handball, a penalty shoot-out and the eventual result that Uruguay progress.

Conclusion

In tactical terms over the course of the game, neither side got the better of the other, and a drawn game was a fair result. It was a good example of a one-striker, five-man midfield against a two striker, four-man midfield contest. In the most basic terms, Ghana created the more chances but had fewer players to finish them.

Uruguay seemed less comfortable in this formation than in the 4-3-1-2 they’d used in previous matches. Forlan is naturally a striker, of course, but in this side his best role seems to be as a deeper playmaker, using his skill and awareness on the ball to create chances for others, and dictate the play. How Tabarez will reshape the side for the semi-final against Holland will be interesting, particularly with the absence of Suarez.

Ghana will feel desperately unlucky to be out of the competition. Ultimately, they weren’t able to score enough goals, and their defence made some frustrating errors which cost them – three of the four goals they conceded came from penalties or free-kicks, after poor tackles.

Milovan Rajevac can consider a run to the quarter-finals an astonishing achievement considering the relative lack of pure talent on show. He has created a tremendous young side that have been disciplined and hard-working, as well as technically proficient and cohesive going forward.

Uruguay 1-1 Ghana: nothing to separate the sides

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