Uruguay 1-1 Peru
Suarez 45’Â Â Guerrero 20′
Estadio del Bicentenario, July 4th – Group C
With big hitters Argentina and Brazil distinctly unimpressive in their opening games of the 43rd Copa America, everyone was looking to Uruguay to reset the pace of the tournament. While the two main superpowers are having to adapt to new styles of play and personnel under new coaches Sergio Batista and Mano Menezes, Oscar Tabarez’s squad has changed very little from the side that made the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup and so could rightly be considered a bit more than an outside bet to come out as winners of the tournament. Not that they really showed that tonight of course – which isn’t to say they played poorly, they looked better than Argentina or Brazil, but it wasn’t the convincing win people were really looking for from the Uruguayans.
La Celeste started the game in something resembling a 4-3-1-2 formation built on a strong defensive base, not all that different from what was used at the World Cup. Diego Forlan played as a trequartista behind Luis Suarez, with Edinson Cavani playing out towards the right wing, Maxi Pereira shuttling up the same flank from full-back and Nicolas Lodeiro tasked with linking the remainder of players, whose roles were primarily defensive, to the attack.
Peru lined up in a very deep 4-5-1 and generally looked to hit it long for Jose Paolo Guerrero or right winger Luis Advincula, who pushed up further than Victor Yotun on the opposite side. They showed they could build up play more patiently on occassion, but that didn’t fit with their deep defending strategy so they generally frustrated Uruguay and hit them on the counter.
It worked for most of the first half: Uruguay often looked stale and the frequency of their shots from distance showed they were struggling. Drawing Uruguay onto them, Peru hit long balls forward and in the 20th minute one of them let Guerrero get in behind Uruguay’s defence, rounding Fernando Muslera to give Peru the lead.
Tabarez pleaded for patience on the touchline, so Forlan started to drop deeper to help Lodeiro, who had been near invisible, get the ball forward. Now able to move the ball forward, Lodeiro started to take control of the game, running beyond Forlan to link with the forwards, who had already started to interchange more even before Peru’s goal.
Interestingly, it was a combination of Lodeiro’s genuis and an appalling pass by Pereira that got Uruguay their equaliser. Pereira hit a terrible ball across his defence, drawing Advincula forward to attack, but they managed to win the ball back and take advantage of the gap he had left down their left side. A few passes down the wing and the ball was slotted to Lodeiro between the lines to twist and slot a through ball between Peru’s defence for Suarez to finish expertly – he shouldn’t have managed it to be frank, Peru had compressed that space well and it was only thanks to his close control they got the chance.
After half-time, Uruguay looked more threatening and it seemed only a matter of time before they would get a second, but the introduction of Juan Vargas on the left wing saw Peru switch to a 4-3-3 and look to play a more possession-orientated game, allowing them to relieve the constant pressure Uruguay were putting their defence under.
The game eventually settled into a rather dull contest with the odd chance thrown in, leaving us still waiting for someone to show themselves as the main contender.