Get well soon, Luis!
That is the prevailing thought among Uruguay fans wishing for star striker Luis Suarez to make a speedy return following La Celeste's stunning 3-1 defeat to Costa Rica on Saturday. Plenty of work now awaits head coach Oscar Tabarez, but first here are five observations taken from the loss to the Ticos.
A weak defensive system
Uruguay got surprised by the sharp counterattacks that Costa Rica proposed in the second half. Defenders couldn't control Joel Campbell at any moment and Cristian Bolaños and Bryan Ruiz managed to set up the goal opportunities and fine offensive plays. The most highly-regarded man at Uruguay's defensive line, Diego Godin, couldn't do enough and got trapped in the chaos near the end of the 90 minutes. So did Martin Caceres, who showed some mistakes in concentration that proved to be vital. Both defensive midfielders Egidio Arevalo Rios and Walter Gargano had poor matches, failing to become the first strong barrier against Costa Rica's offenses, missing many simple balls and always running behind Costa Rica's attackers.
- Vickery: Big trouble for Uruguay
The lack of ideas when Rodriguez and Stuani were covered
From the beginning of the match, Costa Rica's fullbacks established a strong and constant pressure on Uruguay's wingers, Cristian Rodriguez and Christian Stuani. They could hardly ever grab the ball and they never were part of La Celeste's offensive movements. Tabarez's team missed having men through the flanks that could get past the defenders and create gaps behind the fullbacks. Edinson Cavani was a lonely wanderer up front and Diego Forlan hardly had any chance at all because their teammates weren't able to destroy a simple, but tremendously effective wall. Stuani was not able to do all the good things that everyone expected and that took him to take Gaston Ramirez's position in the right. Also, he failed to recover any form when Tabarez placed him as a striker and didn't have a clear chance in front of the goal.
Poor quality in possession
It's been a while since Uruguay had such poor possession throughout a whole game. Although, it got a bit better in the second half when Alvaro Gonzalez and Nicolas Lodeiro came in off the bench, the central midfielders couldn't keep up with Costa Rica's pressure and lost way too many balls. If you add the psychological punch from Costa Rica scoring twice in three minutes, the weight on the backs of the Uruguayans got heavier and heavier. Arevalo Rios and Gargano didn't connect with the men up front and Uruguay felt that lack of support from the midfielders. Gonzalez and especially Lodeiro tried to take the team forward through short, quick triangle passes, but Uruguay had fallen into a deep well and could not see the light.
Weak response from the substitutes
Yes, Lodeiro and Gonzalez showed some minutes of clarity and changed the face of the team in the second half. However, the effect didn't last and the Ticos quickly controlled their football circuits and got Uruguay running behind the ball. Abel Hernandez, who replaced Rodriguez, proposed no danger whatsoever to Keylor Navas' goal, failing to represent a threat when Uruguay was urging for someone to add to the attacking power of the team. While every fan wanted Luis Suarez to come off the bench to fix the situation and take Uruguay back to leading the game, Hernandez taking his place was a clear sign that Suarez is not fit enough to compete. It remains a mystery if he will be able to have his share of minutes against England. With this defeat, Tabarez will probably do whatever he can to rush the striker's comeback.
Aerial duels dominated by Costa Rica
Costa Rica defeated Uruguay with a simple recipe: aerial strength. Arguably, both Lugano and Godin are almost flawless in defending with their heads. Also, Cavani, Stuani and Caceres give a great hand in that area. However, on Saturday, Uruguay showed an almost outrageous weakness in their aerial game, allowing Costa Rica to dominate that aspect and even allowing the Ticos to score their second goal in that fashion. When your team can't even win the headers and it's one of your strongest weapons, it's really not your day. Uruguay's defensive line must improve a lot before the game versus England. With Maximiliano Pereira out after being sent off, Jorge Fucile is likely to take his place. With the change, Uruguay will win on jumping ability, but lose on strength.