There was some rather good news the other day as Luis Suarez’s World Cup chances were thrown into doubt. The Uruguayan FA announced that the striker had undergone surgery on his knee following a tear to his meniscus.
This operation usually requires a minimum recovery time of two weeks. With less than three weeks until the start of the tournament, the forward is facing a struggle to be ready in time. Worse still, this is the best case scenario, as this article explains, there is a small chance that he is facing a much longer lay-off.
The Liverpool number seven has been in sensational form this season, scoring 31 goals to fire the reds to second place. Any player of this quality will be missed by any team in the world, but how exactly will his absence affect Uruguay?
La Celeste have little strength in depth, Liverpool teammate Sebastian Coates has made the squad despite not playing all season, they do have options up front though. Edinson Cavani is bordering on world class, and the veteran Diego Forlan always looks good in his national colours. Both are capable of replacing Suarez’s goals, but the bigger picture is a bit more complex.
The 2010 tournament saw Uruguay exceed all expectations. Using a rigid formation, tactical discipline, and the attacking talents of Suarez and Forlan, they battled through to the semi-finals.
While today’s Uruguay squad is still renowned for their defensive discipline and counter-attacking flair, they also known for their flexibility. The ability for players to play in multiple positions and the whole team to switch formation mid game make Oscar Tabarez’s team very difficult to play against.
When they defend deep, they are very difficult to break down. The midfield drops back, protecting the back four, harassing the opposition into making a mistake and looking for any opportunity to steal the ball. When this happens the team breaks forward with fast, intelligent counterattacking play, the centrepiece of which is Suarez.
At the age of 35, Forlan no longer has the legs for this role. While Cavani has his tireless work rate and goal scoring ability, he lacks Suarez’s eye for a pass, creativity and tendency to pull of something sublime.
Losing Suarez could mean wholesale changes to the way Uruguay play. Any one player can be interchanged, but your style and self-identity are irreplaceable. Good news for Italy and England fans.