There is another match today.
No, I’m not talking to you. I know you knew there was still a 2:30 p.m. Eastern kick-off, but other people - they might have called it a day after Brazil-Netherlands. Or, strike that: Netherlands-Brazil, after the Oranje’s victory over the Selecao this morning.
The winner of Ghana-Uruguay, the day's second match, faces the Netherlands on Tuesday in World Cup 2010's semifinals. If that proves to be Ghana, it will be the first time in the tournament’s history that an African nation qualifies for the final four. If it’s Uruguay, it will be La Celeste’s first semifinal trip in forty years.
And you thought the Dutch beating Brazil was big.
Uruguay, Going Forward: Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez’s move of Diego Forlán to a supporting striker’s role has been the tactical tweak of the tournament, taking the Uruguayans from a team that gave France their only point to a winner of three in a row, scoring six goals along the way.
Despite getting Forlán closer to the midfield, Uruguay still plays with a huge gap between their deep-sitting, three midfielders and Forlán, something that none of South Africa, Mexico, or South Korea were able to exploit. Ghana, however, may be the team best equipped to exploit Uruguay, having Kevin Prince Boateng, Tony Annan, potentially Stephen Appiah to patrol that area of the pitch and destroy what little link-up play the Uruguayans have.
Tabárez may need to rely on Alvaro Pereira, playing on the left of the midfield three, to either win some of the battles against Annan and Boateng or (preferably) give Uruguay an option wide left that they can use to either get around the Ghanaian strength or draw out some of the central midfielders, making Forlán’s life easier in the middle.
Once the Uruguayans are able to link-up, they’ve proved very efficient in the final third. Because of Tabárez’s tactics, that link-up has been infrequent for La Celeste; yet, Forlán and Suárez have still combined for five goals.
Ghana, Going Forward: The Black Stars have not found a way to generate goals. They’ve scored four times: two times from penalty kicks; two times from United States defending gaffs. Against Uruguay, they are unlikely to see one defending gaff to build upon, let alone two.
The problem isn’t so much getting into attack but crafting a final ball. Andre Ayew (suspended for Friday’s match) and Prince Tagoe have been able to beat teams wide and create chances for crosses. The final ball has not been that good, and when decent service is provided, Milovan Rajevac is reminded that it’s difficult to rely on crosses for goals when you’re playing a lone striker. And the team has similar problems through the middle, where the connection between Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah is just a little off.
There is no "ah-ha" solution or magic bullet here of Ghana. The Black Stars need to execute better. The crosses can work, they just have to be better. Building in the middle through Asamoah could lead to goals if he and Gyan can click. Ghana has the talent, but not surprising for a team so young, they lack the polish, something that is evident when trying to craft a final ball.
Ghana can always do as they’ve done throughout the tournament: Be patient and rely on opponent mistakes for goals; however, against an Uruguay team that’s more than willing to play conservatively until Forlan or Suarez made magic, Ghana may want to develop an alternative plan.
How The Match Turns: If Ghana discovers early that Boateng and Annan are capable of neutralizing Forlan, Rajevac can start to be more aggressive higher on the pitch, more aggressively throwing wings and wing backs into attack, abandoning balance and shape in the name of opportunism, knowing his central midfielders can handle the supply line to Uruguay’s dangermen.
Ghana may not have much of an attack coming into this match, but if they can stifle Uruguay early, they’ll be able to throw numbers at the problem.