The match that defined the last place in the semi-finals of the Copa America 2019 turned out to be more even and balanced than initially expected. Uruguay, one of the favorite teams to be champions, was eliminated at the hands of Perú on penalties due to a 0-0 draw. Despite Uruguay’s effort to score a goal, Peru’s tactics worked and they were able to qualify for the semi-finals. Perú came into this fixture off the back of a 5-0 loss to Brazil, while Uruguay beating Chile 1-0 in a very tough game.
In the following tactical analysis, we will show you how Perú eliminated Uruguay, who couldn’t find the way to victory and a place in the semi-finals. In addition, we will show you the statistics and tactics of both teams and how Perú was able to withstand the draw throughout the game and take it to penalties, where they finally won.
For this match, Uruguay continued to use the scheme to which they are accustomed. 4-4-2 is the system that Óscar Washington Tabárez likes the most and with which he has used the most in recent years – and that’s the approach that has worked for them.
Giovanni González was the right back and Martín Cáceres went on to play left back, as Diego Laxalt was injured. In midfield, Nahitan Nández played as a right midfielder, although he usually plays as an inside midfielder. Federico Valverde and Rodrigo Bentancur were the central midfielders. Giorgian De Arrascaeta was positioned as a midfielder on the left, but at times he was placed behind Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani, as De Arrascaeta is also an attacking midfielder.
Peru, for their part, used a 4-1-4-1 scheme. Ricardo Gareca wanted to win the battle in midfield and play with just one striker, Paolo Guerrero. Gareca set up a much more defensive game, unlike Uruguay. Gareca’s idea was for Peru to recover the ball quickly and then deliver long balls for Guerrero, who had a lot of sacrificial work against the two Uruguayan center backs.
The most important thing about this 4-1-4-1 system is to have one line more than the opponent, so the team can occupy more places on the pitch. In that sense, the most important thing for Perú was to use the amplitude. Renato Tapia was the most important player in this formation because he was in charge of being the only defensive midfielder and of covering his other teammates.
Variants of Uruguay’s attack
Uruguay had several moments of the match where they tried different tactical movements, as the Peruvian system was working perfectly. The first of these movements was the deployment of Nández. The Boca Juniors player usually plays as a central midfielder, but this time he played on the right. As a result, he didn’t have so many defensive duties and constantly positioned himself as a striker alongside Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani.
Another important role was for De Arrascaeta. The Flamengo player was in charge of generating the most important goal opportunities for Uruguay. He was the midfielder with more freedom to attack and thus able to make penetrative passes between the lines. De Arrascaeta’s movements were always from the left side of the pitch to the centre, to be in front of the goal and behind the strikers.
Uruguay tried a variant when they had possession of the ball with a formation of 4-3-3. The entry of Lucas Torreira in place of Nández made the scheme change. Torreira played as an axis in the middle of the pitch, while Bentancur and Valverde went on to play as interior midfielders. From Arrascaeta again went to play by the left sector.
The problem with this 4-3-3 system was the space that began to be generated between the lines. The Uruguayan team looked very separated at times. De Arrascaeta stopped playing in the middle and that made the team look without internal play.
Perú in defence
One of Perú’s strong points in this match was using a defensive tactic to perfection. Perú used a line of four players at the back and one player as a defensive midfielder. That player was in charge of moving across the width of the pitch and being aware of the movements of Suárez, Cavani and De Arrascaeta.
Perú had the merit of centralizing the game and forcing Uruguay to use the internal lanes of the pitch. When a team uses a defensive tactic as rigid as Perú’s, the idea is to use the full-backs and play via both wings. Uruguay could never do that during the match.
One of the main characteristics of Uruguay is the aerial game. With players like Diego Godín, José María Giménez, Suárez, and Cavani, the Uruguayans are always looking for headers. In this sense, Perú defended very well. Firstly, they did not commit any fouls near their area and secondly, the tactic they used to defend the free kicks was placing all their players in line and out of the area.
Peru in attack
Perú had very few goalscoring opportunities as their tactics were based on defending. The team led by Gareca did not show many variants in the attack. In fact, the slogan was a simple one: kick long balls at Paolo Guerrero.
Guerrero is a striker whose main characteristics are strength and power. He is a striker capable of coping on his own against the center backs. That’s why the idea of Peru in the attack was only to try to win Guerrero’s back to the back-line by running into space.
The idea of throwing long balls at strikers or in this case at the only striker is to jump pressure lines. The midfield was very crowded, with the majority of players located in that sector of the pitch. It was therefore difficult for Peru to cross those lines with the ball on the bottom. The only way was to play more directly by looking for the striker to generate some goalscoring opportunity in that way.
If there was one team that deserved to win this game, it was Uruguay. We’ve already explained the tactics used by both teams, but now the statistics will show that Uruguay were much better than Perú.
In terms of shots, Uruguay had 13 against just three from Perú. The most striking thing about Perú’s three goalscoring opportunities is that none came from striker Guerrero. In addition, two of those three opportunities were with shots from outside the area.
Another statistic to take into account for this match was the number of fouls. Historically it has been said that the Uruguayan team uses a strong game a lot and commits many fouls. But in this case, it was different. The team that made the most fouls was Perú with 22, against 14 made by Uruguay. This means that Perú appealed a lot to cut the Uruguayan game and not let the ball flow.
In addition, the fouls were committed intelligently, as most were committed in the middle of the pitch or away from the area. Perú committed fouls in areas of the pitch that were not dangerous. In this way, they got rid of one of Uruguay’s strong points: the aerial duels.
One of the most difficult tasks for the Peruvian defence was watching out for the two Uruguayan strikers. Suárez and Cavani are two of the best strikers in the world and it’s not easy to target them. They are two players with a lot of mobility and they are constantly generating spaces. In addition, Nández was added as the third striker in many moments of the game.
The Peruvian defence perfectly contained Suárez, Cavani, and Nández. It was the good work of the back-line that saw the Uruguayan strikers fall offside many times. That means Perú’s back-line made very good movements. Uruguay’s strikers were caught seven times offside, while Peruvian striker Guerrero was caught only once offside. Four offside situations were within the area, which means that the Peruvian defence played to the limit.
Of the three action zones that a football field has, the middle zone was the most influential during the match. This means that it was a match fought in the area where there were more players.
Uruguay was in that action zone for 48% of the time of the match. Meanwhile, Peru was in that action zone for 49% of the match time. That is to say, almost half of the match both teams fought to gain influence there.
Uruguay lost their chance to reach the semi-finals, as it was supposed to be a simple match against Perú. Uruguay qualified to the quarterfinals as first in Group C and Perú qualified as one of the best third-placed sides. That is to say, the draw favoured Uruguay. In addition, Uruguay seemed to be one of the big favourites along with Brazil to win the 2019 Copa América.
But this is football and matches have to be played. Uruguay failed a lot in the goalscoring department. They had a lot of clear goalscoring opportunities and couldn’t convert any. This is unusual given they possess two great strikers in Suárez and Cavani. Uruguay will begin to think and plan for the next Copa America, to be played next year in Argentina and Colombia.
Perú provided us with the big surprise of the quarterfinals and have qualified for the semifinals, where they will face Chile who eliminated Colombia. This analysis showed why Perú has its main merit in defensive tactics, as they endured Uruguay’s attacks. Gareca’s approach was to try to take the game to penalties and he did it. There, the great figure was the goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, who saved the spot-kick from Suárez.
This new Peruvian system will surely also be used in the semifinal against Chile, as it will be a similar match. Perú will try, again, to play a very tactical game from the defence and try to capitalise on the few opportunities of goal that they generate. In these instances with matches so even, the tactics proposed by Ricardo Gareca was not a bad idea. Peru have already beaten one of the favourites, and are now going for another.