It should have been Bafana Bafana’s big night but Uruguay stole the show in their encounter with the hosts and thoroughly deserve the plaudits.
In their first encounter with France, coach Tabarez stuck with his tried and trusted 3-5-2 and took a point against Domenech’s dysfunctional side. It was a fairly unambitious effort from the South Americans but they certainly expanded their repertoire in this game and the signs were there right from the outset as Tabarez included Cavani to play up with Suarez and Forlan, ditching the unimpressive Gonzalez. The FIFA average position diagram indicates a Christmas Tree formation with Cavani and Forlan supporting Suarez:
The presence of Cavani allowed Forlan more opportunity to go looking for the ball and he regularly found space for himself in between the South African lines which was perhaps a surprise given the presence of two holding midfielders in the Bafana Bafana line-up. What was also significant was the presence of Alvaro Pereira in a more advanced role. As you can see in the diagram above, Pereira was operating in a midfield three with Fucile behind him and this meant much more freedom to attack following his mainly defensive brief against the French where, playing as a wing-back, he was frequently pinned back by their 4-3-3 system. Here, he was able to influence the game much higher up the field and this is well illustrated in the build-up to the opening goal:
It is Pereira’s purposeful run ahead of Forlan that buys the goalscorer time to take aim and get his shot away as the South African defenders hesitate to close down the man with the ball. People will quite rightly give the credit to Forlan himself and perhaps point to a lucky deflection. However, it is an excellent example of how committing men forward with pace and good movement can buy you some luck and help a team create more openings.
The key moment in the second half was clearly the sending off of Khune and there was no way back from there as Uruguay added a second from the spot. The third, another example of Pereira’s forward running as he scored almost on the goal-line, was the icing on the cake of an impressive Uruguayan display. They had shown they could defend. Now they have shown they can score goals. It looks like the first ever winners of the World Cup are not in the mood to go home anytime soon.