Most coaches are only going through the motions during these final FIFA dates before the World Cup lineups are revealed, relishing the chance to assemble the team and considering outside choices, even though the overall strategy for Qatar is already well-established.
The South Americans should be especially aware of this. They have played two Copa America editions as well as eighteen rounds of World Cup qualifications since the middle of 2019—more than enough competitive games to get their team in shape. Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador are unquestionably examples of this.
But Uruguay is not covered by it. Diego Alonso’s appointment as a coach came at the close of the previous year. The friendlies between Uruguay and Canada and Iran versus Iran are two of the most intriguing games of the upcoming few days because of the amount of difficult work and significant decisions he still needs to make.
After Oscar Washington Tabarez’s historic 15-year rule, during which time Uruguay returned to the top of the football world, Alonso was appointed. In retrospect, it might have been preferable for Tabaez to resign following Russia 2018. But it is simple to see how he may have been persuaded to stay.
The journey to Qatar would coincide with the development of Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur, two young, talented midfielders, as well as a final opportunity for his team’s seasoned leaders, like Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin, Fernando Muslera, and Martin Caceres. It appeared fantastic on paper. On the field, issues existed.
The crucial query, which confounded Tabarez and now stands before Alonso, is how to strike the ideal balance. How many veterans can be deployed at once?
Tabarez never came up with a solution and was further damaged by a string of unkind games and injuries. Prior to playing Argentina at home and away, Brazil away, and the dreaded journey to play Bolivia at an extremely high altitude in La Paz, Uruguay appeared to be on track for Qatar. Three significant losses out of four defeats compelled a change.
The schedule was more favorable to Alonso, who won matches against Paraguay, Venezuela, and Peru to guarantee Uruguay’s spot in the World Cup. South Korea, Portugal, and Ghana, the other members of the group competing in Qatar, will show to be considerably more difficult.
Alonso is fully aware that the team he picked to represent his country at the World Cup would differ from the squad he fields there. He should be able to better understand those disparities throughout the coming days.
Godin, the center back, captain, and leader of Uruguay is obviously aging and dealing with health issues that have prevented him from playing in this month’s matches. Alonso made sure Godin was adequately shielded earlier this season. But is he even need to be chosen?
Ronald Araujo of Barcelona might be switched from right back to his more ideal center-back position. It would be intriguing to see Araujo and Jose Maria Gimenez work together. Gimenez had to withdraw from these games due to an injury, allowing Alonso the opportunity to give Araujo, the senior center-back in these two games, lots of defensive responsibilities. Godin will undoubtedly attend the World Cup if healthy. But perhaps as a fallback rather than as the primary option.
Who will be the goalkeeper? When Muslera got hurt at the beginning of the year, homegrown Sergio Rochet filled in. He is a capable keeper of goals. However, he has a stiffness about him that prevents him from ever reaching the top level. Will Rochet remain Alonso’s trusted partner, or will Muslera be called back?
Cavani has been left off of this team at the other end of the field. He has been given time to get back into shape for matches in Valencia, and he will undoubtedly travel to the World Cup. What capacity, though? It is becoming increasingly apparent that Uruguay cannot play Cavani and Suarez together any longer; one of them must sit on the bench.
What about Darwin Nunez, though? Can he join one of the veterans on the field? Or would Uruguay be better off giving up 4-4-2? There is a perception that Uruguay’s midfielders, who are arguably the greatest players on the team right now, would perform better in a different system that would allow them to have three players in the pitch’s center and a flying winger to trouble the opposition’s defense.
With two months until the big match, Uruguay must make several important decisions regarding people as well as the team’s overall shape and concept. Rarely have exhibition games versus Iran and Canada had such significance.