How Atletico Tucuman stunned Boca Juniors

Boca Juniors Atletico Tucuman Superliga Tactical Analysis
artwork by @chapluana.

Boca Juniors, still undefeated in 2019 hosted Atletico Tucuman at La Bombonera for a top of the table clash. Boca Juniors and Atletico Tucuman are third and fourth respectively in the Superliga. Nevertheless, they are both trying to catch joint leaders, Racing club and Defensa y Justicia.

Head to head, the last time Boca lost to Tucuman was back in 2016, a 1-0 loss on the day. However, Boca had home advantage. In this match analysis, we will look into how Tucuman neutralised an attacking Boca team.

Line ups 

Boca switched back to a 4-2-3-1 formation from a 4-4-1-1 used over a week ago against Belgrano. Nandez joined the side in defensive midfield alongside Marcone with the defence largely unchanged. The attack was all change with Reynoso, Tevez and Villa in midfield and Abila completing the attacking positions. Tucuman played a 4-4-2 formation this week with a massive 6 changes after losing away to Union 3-0 last Friday.

Boca Juniors Atletico Tucuman Superliga Tactical Analysis
Credit: Wyscout.

Tucuman’s defence

Boca started the game very much on the front foot. Tucuman had to react and did so by compacting a well organised double line of defence. In addition, Tucuman’s tackling was aggressive and very effective, which neutralised Boca’s advances.

Boca Juniors Atletico Tucuman Superliga Tactical Analysis

Ricardo Zielinski’s side also man marked very well as you can see in the picture below. If an attacking player attempted to make a run from midfield without the ball, he would be followed with an opposing midfielder until in a better counter press another unmarked player. A defender would then instantly pick the attacking player up.

The midfield would counter press while the defence man-marked the Boca players. This was essential to keeping Boca down the flanks, who would then attempt to cross the ball in deep but without success. only two crosses found their target out of 13 (15%).

Boca Juniors Atletico Tucuman Superliga Tactical Analysis
Black arrows at the top of the picture denote where the Boca player has made a run. The left midfield Tucuman player followed him until spotting another player unmarked. The Boca player making the run was then picked up by the Tucuman left back.

Here again, you can see Tucuman well organised. The midfield would simply invite Boca into their half, then press them from midfield. The defence would man mark and try to anticipate any key pass attempts, as Boca are known for successful through balls from range. The striker would generally stay out in the middle so when Tucuman won the ball back, they played the ball long, hoping that the attacker could latch onto it and take the pressure off the defence.

In the eighth minute, Tucuman had an attack from a throw-in on the right. A cross came in and Nunez finished. Boca found themselves down early and needed to react quickly. They just needed a way to counteract this defence.

Boca attempt to unlock their opponents half

The ‘Azul y Oro’, started showing signs of potentially overcoming Tucuman. They pressed high and wide into the shape below. The wingbacks hugged the touchline to open up space. Izquierdoz joins the bottom of the shape with the midfield players to give more options. The attacking players in the middle then ran into spaces between the defenders to create passing lanes. By doing this, Tucuman would be forced to re-position and adjust to the fluidity of Boca’s movement.

Two defenders provided a defensive cover should Tucuman breakaway with the ball. They also acted as ball retrievers once the ball had been cleared long, this was done in an effort to ‘recycle’ the ball quickly and get it back in Tucamans half before they could break out and counter press.

Boca Juniors Atletico Tucuman Superliga Tactical Analysis

The system worked well, to a point. Boca got forward and controlled the game. Tucuman started to struggle with Boca’s passing and movement into new channels. However, where it fell down for Boca was the final pass or final shot. The end product was poor and all of the dominance and possession seemed to be constantly wasted. The first half ended and Boca had been left frustrated at not taking their chances.

The second half

Boca piled on the pressure in the 2nd half but still lacked a good finish. Tucuman started to look impenetrable. Until they started to press even higher up the pitch. This was done to reduce the intense pressure they were enduring and perhaps to grab another goal for extra cushion in the scoreline.

An equaliser became because of Tucuman’s high pressing. Here the goalkeeper hits the ball long from a free kick and Tucuman are high up the field. They are still organised centrally not to expose themselves, however, Boca would play straight up the middle and catch the light blues off guard completely.

Boca Juniors Atletico Tucuman Superliga Tactical Analysis

A missed header by the Tucuman centre back, which happened directly after the picture above. “Wanchope” (Ramon Abila) controls the ball down for Villa and peels off behind the centre back. Villa plays the ball through the reeling defence onto “Wanchope” who goes on to finish and equalise for the blue and yellows. Despite this, the scoreline wouldn’t last long as Boca’s sloppy defending and a few lucky bounces of the ball Tucuman found themselves on top again. The high pressing and clinical finishing had paid off.

Boca Juniors Atletico Tucuman Superliga Tactical Analysis
See Boca players Wanchope and Villa’s position. Bang in the centre of Tucuman’s defence. Though unlucky to miss the header this high pressing and poor positioning would lead to the equaliser.

After re-taking the lead, Ricardo Zielinski made substitutions and changed the formation to 5-3-2. Zielinski had ‘shut up shop’ with only 10 minutes to go. This would lead to Boca dominate possession and heaping on the pressure yet again. But they still could not find the back of the net. Tucuman would break and looked dangerous when they did, catching Boca on the counter-attack. Eventually, time ran out and Tucuman were victors.

Post-match statistics

To illustrate Boca’s constant pressure is the attack momentum graph below. As you can see, Boca applied heavy pressure throughout the majority of the game, especially around 60-70 minutes zone. Tucuman only six, small, notable periods where they would attack Boca.


Boca Juniors Atletico Tucuman Superliga Tactical Analysis
Graph showing attack momentum. Boca (green) Tucuman (Blue)


Boca trumping all the stats. Notably possession 71% v 29%, shots on target 7 v 3 and big chances missed. Boca also outpassed their opponents and with better accuracy.

Boca Juniors Atletico Tucuman Superliga Tactical Analysis



Just by looking at the statistics and had not watched the game, it would be fair to say you would have thought Boca won this game fairly comfortably. At worst, drawn. So, in reality, they must be furious they got nothing from this game at all, especially after dominating so many of the areas. However, that is where tactics won it for Tucuman.

When you’re away from home, against a dominant force and have lost the last game team selections, formations and positioning all make a difference. Zielinski played his hand spot on in this regard and was rewarded with all three points which pulls them away from Huracana and River Plate and ties them in joint third with Boca, 10 points off the leaders.