Diego Forlán is the poster boy for Uruguay’s successful campaign in the World Cup, and perhaps justifiably so. On the march to the second round, the former Manchester United striker has steered La Celeste to seven points, four goals, and none conceded.
Yet had coach Óscar Tabárez not implemented adjustments in the wake of that 0-0 with France, Uruguay would likely be on the plane home.
In that game, Uruguay looked empty down the right, and Patrice Evra attacked at will. With Ignacio González as trequartista, and Forlán and Luis Suárez high and horizontal, the South Americans floundered.
Realising his tactics were wrong (but saved from defeat by French incompetence), the former Milan manager identified and addressed the issue.
For the encounter with hosts South Africa, Tabárez included Edinson Cavani, the Palermo marksman, part of a partnership with Fabrizio Miccoli at club level, put out on the right of midfield.
Alongside him were Forlán, playing as a left-veering withdrawn striker, and the line-leading Ajax hotshot Suárez.
Cavani, who recently lost his Palermo place to fellow Uruguayan Abel Hernández, was instructed to form an attacking-trident, or cover one of Suárez’s many diagonal darts.
The idea worked perfectly – Uruguay won both of their next games, and the presence of a forward on the right-side restricted oppositional left-backs – first Tsepo Masilela, then Carlos Salcido.
Not only has Cavani worked tactically, but also as another tireless cog in the Uruguayan machine. His situational reading is brilliant, and fused with sharp-shooting, and sublime skill.
His presence allows teammates to thrive. Forlán, for example, relishes the space he now has in which to engineer and make Uruguay tick.
Elsewhere, with opponents occupied by Cavani, left-back Jorge Fucile utilises the attacking opportunities now afforded to him. He and Maxi Pereira maintain the side’s width, ensuring that Egídio Arévalo and Diego Perez focus on ball-winning.
So all hail Óscar Tabárez – a man involved with the national set-up since 1983. A ticket to the quarter-finals is Uruguay’s for the taking, and would be in no way undeserved.