Spain vs. Uruguay: Confederations Cup Preview

The 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup has kicked off and world football giants Spain and Uruguay will face off this Sunday in Recife, Brazil. The two sides are in Group B and will be expected to advance past the group stages in a rather weak group, including Nigeria and Tahiti.

Spain, the first place team in the FIFA World Rankings, have won Euro 2008, the 2010 FIFA World Cup and Euro 2012 and will be looking to add yet another international title to their impressive trophy case. Uruguay’s most recent tournament victory came in the 2011 Copa America and with their recent run of poor form, they’ve slipped all the way down to 19th in the FIFA World Rankings and sit in fifth place in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, five points out of the direct qualification places and facing a play-off against an African side as they currently stand.

The two sides are relatively injury free, with the only significant injury to either side being to Spanish midfielder Xabi Alonso. Alonso has made 107 appearances for his national team and has been instrumental in each of Spain’s recent successes, coupling sound positional awareness that helps him on the defensive side of the ball with world-class passing ability.

Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque will likely interchange between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3 throughout the course of the match and Alonso’s injury leaves a big void in the centre of midfield. Del Bosque is fortunate to have Bayern Munich midfielder Javi Martinez in the squad so Martinez, who has been in sensational form this year and played well enough to deserve a starting role had Alonso been injured or not, will join the first-team.

With Fernando Torres and David Villa not being on form as they have in the past, Del Bosque could opt to utilize Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas as the “false 9″ like he did in Euro 2012 against Italy. Though Fabregas is not an out-and-out striker, his inclusion into the side will facilitate constant interchanging that will be difficult for the Uruguayan defense to track.

Spain will likely begin with Iker Casillas, who lost his spot under Jose Mourinho, between the sticks, Cesar Azpilicueta will likely beat Alvaro Arbeloa out to start at right-back, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos as the centre-halves and Jordi Alba at left-back. Should Del Bosque use a 4-3-3, Javi Martinez, Sergio Busquets and Xavi will occupy the central midfield, while Xavi will be pushed into a more advanced role should a 4-2-3-1 be implemented.

Andres Iniesta will fill one of the wing spots while the other could go to either David Silva or Pedro. Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla will also be in contention for a starting spot, though both excelled in central attacking roles this season and could provide valuable depth, coming off the bench to ease the load on the aging Xavi. In a 4-3-3, expect Fabregas to be the “centre-forward”, but Del Bosque could prefer Torres, who generally elevates his play for the national team, to lead the line in a 4-2-3-1.

Uruguay have the unenviable task of facing the world’s best team in their first match and will have their work cut out for them. They have a very talented squad and if they can put their recent struggles behind them, they’ll have an outside shot at bringing home the title.

Manager Oscar Tabarez has the tournament’s most talented forward line and will be able to rely on the ridiculously gifted duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez to provide the goals. Both players are capable of creating something out of nothing and given their multi-faceted skill-sets, are very difficult to mark. Cavani and Suarez are the two most recognizable names on the squad but la Celeste have a number of talented players on the squad.

Without any major injuries, Tabarez will have the full complement of players at his disposal. Fernando Muslera will be given the start in goal and while he may not be a household name, Muslera is a reliable player to have in net. Uruguay’s defense is led by captain Diego Lugano and Atletico Madrid centre-back Diego Godin, who was fantastic for Diego Simeone and a pivotal cog in La Liga’s best defense last season. Benfica’s Maxi Pereira will be given the start on the right while Juventus utility defender Martin Caceres can be started on the left. Inter’s Alvaro Pereira could also be played at left-back, but considering he occupied a more advanced role for his club, he could be used on the left-side of midfield.

In Tabarez’s 4-2-2-2, the holding midfield duo will be comprised of two Serie A standouts, Napoli’s Walter Gargano and Palermo’s Egidio Arevalo Rios. The wing positions are perhaps Uruguay’s biggest weakness. The aforementioned Pereira could be given the start, but Tabarez has other options including Nicolas Lodeiro, Cristian Rodriguez and Gaston Ramirez.

Rodriguez is a natural left-sided player and it’s always good to have a left-footed player on the pitch. Even if Rodriguez isn’t part of the starting eleven, expect him to be brought on off the bench. Gaston Ramirez is a huge talent,  and though it’s unfortunate that he’s most comfortable in a central role, he’s played on the right at times throughout his career. He’ll provide a good bit of creativity and should be able to link up quite well with Cavani and Suarez.

Spain and Uruguay are two of the tournament’s best teams and should provide some brilliant attacking play. Spain should walk away 2-0 winners as they look to add another trophy, whilst Uruguay’s recent woes continue.

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