Holland v Uruguay: tactical preview

July 6, 2010

Possible starting line-ups

Holland have so far used the same 4-2-3-1 shape in every game, whilst Uruguay have used at least three different formations. Oscar Tabarez is the man with more dilemmas ahead of this contest.

So how will he approach this one? Firstly, we must note that he is without two players who would have started. Luis Suarez will be absent after his handball against Ghana, whilst Jorge Fucile, the left-back who has had an excellent tournament, is also suspended. Tabarez has again named his side a day before kick-off – but with slight injury doubts over a couple of key players, there could be late changes.

The absence of the first-choice left-back is an obvious weakness considering that player will be up against Arjen Robben, but the Dutchman’s slightly unusual nature (an insistence on coming inside at every possible opportunity) provided an interesting debate for Tabarez.

There were broadly three options: Diego Godin, a centre-back who is an injury doubt after going off in the first half against Ghana; Martin Cacares, a highly-rated Barcelona player who has only played four complete matches in 2010, and was sent-off on his last appearance for Uruguay; and Alvaro Pereira, a speedy player who prefers a wing-back role, and has been used as a left-sided carrilero in this tournament.

Tabarez has named Caceres, Godin and Pereira in the side. It seems likely that Godin will start at centre-back (Diego Lugano is injured), Caceres will take the left-back position, whilst Pereira’s natural defensive qualities (he plays left-back for Porto) means he’ll be comfortable doubling up when Robben gets the ball. There is a chance that Godin could play at left-back with Cacares in the centre, but sources close to the side indicate that this will probably not be the case. The use of a nominal centre-back at left-back means they will probably be more comfortable remaining in a fairly central role and showing Robben down the line – Uruguay will defend relatively deep, quite narrow, and try and keep it tight between the lines.

Khalid Boulahrouz will start at right-back

Tabarez has also picked Napoli’s stocky defensive midfielder Walter Gargano. This will be his first start of the competition, despite the fact he appeared to be a key player ahead of the tournament. His position is deep in midfield, so Uruguay will either play three central midfielders and a left-winger (with Forlan or Cavani dropping to the right), or Diego Perez will move out to a slightly right-sided role. Or, quite possibly, we’ll see a hybrid of the two – like how their South American rivals Paraguay set out against Japan.

Bert van Marwijk has a more straightforward task, as he will retain his favoured 4-2-3-1 system. He also has two suspensions to deal with, and the replacements seem fairly obvious – Khalid Boulahrouz will come in for Gregory van der Wiel, whilst Demy de Zeeuw will fill the position usually taken by Nigel de Jong.

His priorities when attacking will depend on the formation Uruguay deploy, but it is likely that at least one of his full-backs will have a decent amount of time on the ball. Further up the pitch, Uruguay keep two defensive midfielders in front of their centre-backs at all times, which will deny Wesley Sneijder space to operate in. Therefore, a key player might be Mark van Bommel, who will have to provide some creativity.

Former teammates Diego Forlan and Johnny Heitinga will be in direct confrontation

That said, don’t expect Holland to vary their attacking approach from previous games too much. They’ll be confident in the ability of Sneijder, van Persie and Robben to break down the Uruguayan defence, and their tactical concerns will be defensive-minded.”We have learned that you have to keep a clean sheet, first of all”, says Nigel de Jong, in a tremendous piece about this Dutch side by Raphael Honigstein.

Where will Uruguay’s goal threat come from? The obvious answer is Forlan, but he will be closely marshalled by the centre-backs and de Zeeuw. Cacares will remain in a defensive position against Robben, whilst Maxi Pereira’s forward charges will be tracked by Kuyt. The two central midfielders will stay deep, and so attacking Holland’s full-backs might be the answer.

Usually, Giovanni van Bronckhorst is the main target, but he’s coped quite well against pace so far, by sticking tight to his man and not letting them turn, leaving any forward charges from the opposition right-back to Kuyt. Furthermore, if Perez plays on the right, Uruguay won’t have much creativity from that position. Attention might instead switch to Boulahrouz – if Pereira gets forward, stays wide, and use his pace, Boulahrouz will struggle, and that could turn out to be the key contest of the match.

With both sides seemingly focused on defending well, we could be in for a very tight game.

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