In our previous post, we took a look at potential replacements for Luis Suárez, and therefore, previewed pretty much all of Uruguay’s front-line attackers and strikers. This time around, let’s take a look at Uruguay’s midfielders. Uruguay’s midfielders did a wonderful job in South Africa four years ago, and they’ll need some more of that medicine if they’re going to go far this year. Without the offensive middle, there’s nobody to get the ball to the strikers, and therefore no goals. This especially holds true for a team like Uruguay, who is expected to start Saturday’s matchup against Costa Rica in a 4-4-2 formation (although Uruguay’s 4-4-2 sometimes resembles a 4-2-4). So, how does Uruguay’s midfield shape up?
For the sake of this post, we’ll assume that Luis Suárez will be healthy and ready to go come Saturday. Even if he isn’t, hopefully he’ll be returning soon after, so we’ll still talk in best case scenarios. That being said, it’s still hard to say who will make up the starting four in the middle. In theory, coach Óscar “El Maestro” Tabárez will have to choose from the following guys: Álvaro “El Tata” González, Álvaro “Palito (Little Stick)” Pereira, Walter “El Mota” Gargano, Egidio Arévalo Ríos, Diego “El Ruso (The Russian)” Pérez, Cristian “Cebolla (The Onion)” Rodríguez (pictured at the top), Gastón Ramírez and Nicolás Lodeiro. Most of those four spots are pretty much spoken for, however.
Let’s start on the far left of the attacking midfield, with Rodríguez. As I mentioned above, and when we profiled him back in November, he’s known as “Cebolla,” or onion. He got that name while playing for Peñarol of the Uruguayan Primera, because it was said that he was so good that he made opposing defenses cry. This will be Rodríguez’s first World Cup–he wasn’t chosen for 2010 because of a four game suspension towards the end of qualifying. The 28 year old, who plays for La Liga’s Atlético Madrid, brings plenty of speed to the pitch. He struggles with his footwork from time to time, but always seems to find himself in front of the net on rebounds. I predict he’ll run into a goal or two, depending on how far Uruguay gets.
The middle will probably be manned by 32-year old Egidio Arévalo Rios and, if the warmup friendlies mean anything, 29-year old Walter Gargano. You should remember Ríos from his impressive run in South Africa in 2010. He and fellow midfielder “Ruso” Pérez, who plays for Serie A’s Bologna, used tenacity and pure will to command the middle of the field against most of Uruguay’s opponents, and were a big reason Uruguay made their semi-final run. While Perez has pretty much become a bench player now at age 34 , Ríos is still kicking and, despite still having a slightly pronounced paunch of a belly, still has that same tenacity and desire. We met him last July, and you can read that post here. He currently plays his club ball for Tigres UANL of the Mexican league. Gargano, on the other hand, plays for Parma of the Italian Serie A (on loan from Napoli), but has mostly been a sub for Uruguay until very recently. He has earned starts in both of Uruguay’s warmup games, however, which is probably a good sign for his chances of playing in Brazil. While only 5’6″, Gargano is very talented, and should fill in nicely for the older Pérez. This World Cup could be a huge chance for him to make a splash and earn himself a nice transfer, like Pérez did in 2010.
That brings us to the right side of the field, and one of the players that Uruguayans have been getting more and more excited about of late. I first introduced you to 23-year old Gastón Ramírez in November, and his stock has risen even further since then. Ramírez plays his club ball for Southampton of the EPL, and has recently been surrounded by several transfer rumors (some Italian teams are sniffing around, it seems). Despite Uruguay’s poor performance, Ramírez made a good impression during the 2012 Summer Games. His free kick goal against the United Arab Emirates even gave me flashbacks to Diego Forlán’s 2010 World Cup performance. I think Ramírez will make a big splash in Brazil, as he’s another guy looking to impress his way to a possible big transfer come July.
Of the rest of the midfield, Nicolás Lodeiro is the one that really excites Uruguayans with his potential. The 25-year old currently plays for Corinthians of the Brasileiro Série A, but has also played for Botafogo of the same league and Ajax of the Dutch league. He and Álvaro González, a 29-year old who plays for Lazio of the Italian Serie A, should see the most play off the bench in Brazil. Pereira, who plays for São Paolo FC in Brazil, and Pérez both played huge roles in 2010 but should see their playing time diminish if Uruguay wants to make it far. They’re not bad players, but I think their time has come and gone.
That’s it for the middle, we’ll be back later this week to take a look at the defense.
Featured image courtesy of: Getty Images
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