Uruguay 1 – 0 Mexico
A. Pereira 14′
Estadio Ciudad de La Plata, July 13 – Group C
Although what was mostly a dead rubber between Chile and Peru had already made sure Uruguay could not win the group, Oscar Tabarez’s men needed a win against an understrength Mexico side to ensure they progressed onto the next round.
The coach opted not to make any sweeping changes though – creative linkman Nicolas Lodeiro missed out again, this time for Alvaro Gonzalez, and Cristian Rodriguez replaced the injured Edinson Cavani. The formation was broadly a 4-3-3, with a defensive midfield trio setting up a strong base for the forwards while both Pereiras would offer support from full-back.
Meanwhile Mexico continued with their ultra-defensive 3-5-2, their only change being the replacement of left winger Javier Aquino for the slightly deeper-lying Miguel Ponce, while Giovani Dos Santos pushed a bit higher up the pitch. They looked even less willing to commit men forward than usual, generally just knocking the ball around the defence and deep midfielders for a while until one of the centre-backs hit it long for the forwards.
Uruguay did offer attacking intent however, starting the game pressing Mexico high up the pitch. When they got the ball back, they looked to play it forward quickly, resulting in either incisive moves in the final third or a long ball towards the channels for Luis Suarez. Despite his lack of height making him appear an unusual target for a direct style, the latter approach worked: Suarez has a good touch so could control most of what his teammates hit towards him and if he couldn’t, he’s good enough defensively to hassle them and get it back, while his tricky dribbling style made him look a real threat once he got the ball.
It didn’t take long for Uruguay to get their goal, Alvaro Pereira pouncing on the remains of a well-worked free-kick. Once the goal went in, the match was pretty much killed off. Mexico had only fleeting interests in attacking and Uruguay saw little reason to expend unnecessary energy, easing off and simply controlling the game.
Mexico going home with no points paints an unfair picture – they rarely showed any attacking intent, but, given they were mostly an under 23 side and were in the most difficult group at the tournament, they were fairly impressive and their performances should be seen as far more successful than their results.
Uruguay, on the other hand, move on to face Argentina in the next round. They are funtional rather than spectacular, but they do look fairly good – built on a solid defensive base with enough quality going forward to justify going into the Argentina game as favourites, or even winning the tournament.