After the first match of the tournament, Uruguay switched to an attack featuring three forwards: Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani, and Diego Forlán, who has played in a deeper role. Forlán’s positioning allows coach Óscar Tabárez to play his three midfielders deep, enabling La Celeste to go five World Cup matches allowing only two goals: a set piece conversion by South Korea and a jabulani-aided 40-yarder from Ghana.
With Suárez suspended and the Uruguayans taking a step-up in quality for today’s semifinal, Tabárez may be tempted to add another midfielder in Suárez’s place, shifting the formation from a 4-3-3 (4-3-1-2) to a 4-4-2 (4-4-1-1). In both formations, Forlán will be the most important player, providing the link between the deep midfield and attack. Uruguay has no other player who can be relied upon to carry or pass the ball into attack, through the area of the pitch which will be occupied by Mark van Bommel and Demy de Zeeuw.
To this point in the tournament, when Forlán has gotten the Uruguayans into attack he has had Suárez there for finish. Of Uruguay’s seven tournament goals, three have come from the suspended striker. Three more have come from Forlán, with the seventh a 95th minute goal from Álvaro Pereira against South Africa. Today, with Suárez suspended and Pereira possibly at left back - a replacement for the suspended Jorge Fucile - Diego Forlán may be Tabárez’s only hope for goals.
That sounds bleak, but if there’s a silver lining for Uruguay, it’s in a couple of absences at the back for the Netherlands. The Dutch will be without defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong, who would have been able to deter the link-up play for which Forlán is responsible. Instead, de Zeeuw will have that responsibility, and Forlán should have an easier time with him than the Manchester City bulldog. Once past that level, Uruguay will be able to attack the flanks, were Giovani van Bronckhorst and Khalid Boulahrouz, coming into the team for the suspended Gregory van der Weil, are the weakest points in a suspect Dutch defense.
If Uruguay can see enough of the ball and navigate the issues they have in getting into attack, they can pull-off what would be a minor upset. Likely to see significant disadvantages in possession, La Celeste will have to make the most of the few chances they’ll been able to generate. Fortunately for Uruguay, given their strong defense and the trouble the Dutch have had creating opportunities, one goal could be enough, two goals should.