We may be destined for another draw in Group A, which may not be a bad thing, as Uruguay and South Africa is shaping up as a interesting battle of approaches from coaches Oscar Tábarez and Carlos Alberto Parreira. But for those who don't worship at the metaphysical alter of these nebulous TAK*tiks, there is still plenty of star power: Forlán; Pienaar; Suárez ... ... and now, Cavani.
Uruguay, going forward: Earlier this week came word that Oscar Tabáraz would probably put Edinson Cavani in the starting lineup, most likely for Ignacio Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a midfielder was some limited creative flair, while Cavani is an striker, coming off a strong season for Palermo in Italy's Serie A. Two implications:
- You could infer this meant Nicolas Lodiero was supposed to start in this match, but having accumulated a red card against France, Lodiero is suspended. From that, we get that Uruguay never intended to carry forward the über-conservative play we saw against France.
- Diego Forlán may be Tábarez's best non-Lodiero distributor, and in putting Cavani in the lineup over another midfielder, Tábarez looks set to move Forlán back to a supporting striker's - if not outright attacking midfielder;s - role. It's an area on the pitch Forlán is comfortable operating within and one of the reasons why his partnership with Sergio Agüero has worked so well at his club.
For South Africa, this means more people to occupy the defense. If Uruguay stayed 4-4-2, Aaron Mokoena and the back line would have had to concern themselves primarily with Luis Suárez and Diego Forlán. Now, Suárez will be accompanied by Cavani, and when Uruguay establishes a presence in the final third, Forlán will also be looking for goals.
One of the drawbacks for Tábarez to going with this approach would be less of a presence in midfield, but against a South Africa team that seems to play best when trying to absorb the other team's attacks, this approach could work very well. With the power of his three strikers, Tábarez will not have to commit much to attack to think he can find goals, and if Bafana Bafana are going to allow Uruguay to play to them, he will not need such strong distribution in the middle of the pitch.
Once Uruguay crosses half-way, Forlán in his withdrawn role can take over.
The key for La Celeste will be taking the attack to South Africa rather than waiting to counter, which is often their want.
South Africa, going forward: Uruguay's new formation presents some potential problems for Bafana Bafana. As we saw against Mexico, the hosts are best on the counter attack, and they don't have much creativity when forced to form their own attacks. Uruguay will force them to do this, and it remains to be seen if Parreira is willing to play their game. He may wait for the Uruguayans to score before reacting.
Against a team that is committing another forward to their formation, you would want the South Africans to cut-off the supply line to the attackers and create a gap between midfield and attack - something that should be relatively easy to do against Uruguay. And that's where South Africa has a problem. To create that gap, South Africa would have to be more aggressive, play higher up the pitch and try to win the midfield battle. Still, over the last year, South Africa has been better when their midfielders are playing deep and winning the ball at the edge of the attacking third. After doing so, they can break out and create opportunities akin to the one on which they scored against Mexico.
So against an Uruguay team that is setting-up to not get exposed on counter attacks, what does South Africa do? They go about things the old fashioned way. They get their players to out-perform their Uruguayan counterparts.
In that way, South Africa is going to be more reliant on their elite players than they were against Mexico. Advanced midfielders Thabo Modise and Steven Pienaar need to be active when they get the ball and try open-up the attack. Piennar is going to have to do more creating than he did against Mexico, while Modise will need to finish his opportunities. These are the two players who, if they have strong matches, can force Uruguay's defense to break its ranks. Then, the other South African players will get opportunities.
Where The Match Turns: If Uruguay can avoid disorganization, mistakes at the back, they should be fine, which leaves the question of whether South Africa can go the full ninety without allowing the Uruguayans - Forlán, in particular - to find the extra attackers.